By David Cruz
If history is to remember this as the summer when the Jersey Shore came back, visitors will have to be convinced that the ocean and the beaches are safe and clean and ready for them. Today’s event was part of the Christie administration’s continued full court press to make exactly that point.
“We’ve been doing checking on the ocean water since the storm, including Barnegat Bay and all the rest, and water quality is excellent, overall,” said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin. “All the samples have come back fabulously, and we expect to have that all summer long, so the storm has not had an impact on the water quality. What little problems we had were back in early November. Since then the water quality has been good.”
The 11th annual State of the Shore event is usually held in Sandy Hook, but like most of the shore’s summer plans, Hurricane Sandy changed all that. This year’s event was held at D’Jais Bar & Grill, the popular Belmar spot that Mayor Matt Doherty says personifies the shore’s resilience.
“It’s been here for over 60 years, never had a drop of water in their basement, until Sandy,” he recounted. “After Sandy they had to put about $1.2 million into repairing this to be ready for a day like today, so the businesses are back but many of our families, in Belmar and throughout the Jersey Shore, are still displaced. We’re not going to rest until all those families are back where they belong.”
There was plenty of optimism here but the ramifications of the storm are still being felt and will continue to be felt for years to come. That’s the story — the one about beach erosion and millions of cubic yards of debris and building sand dunes — that the environmentalists were here to tell.
“The beaches do not have enough sand on them right now,” said Professor Jon Miller, a coastal processes specialist with Steven’s Institute in Hoboken. “We need to do whatever we can to build back those beaches, so we can be ready for the next storm season.”
Stockton College Coastal Research Center Director Stewart Farrell says dune replenishment and construction of new dunes must be a top state priority.
“Consistency in dune size elevation and width is extremely important,” he said. “The width of the beach is exceedingly important because that’s where the waves break first.”
“The big challenge right now is getting easements,” added Commissioner Martin. “There’s a lot of private easements that people aren’t giving us just yet. We need those easements for the Army Corps of Engineers to build the beaches, so the governor’s out there, I’m out there, talking about the easements. We need those easements.”
The annual top 10 beaches list is not a part if this year’s report. Hurricane Sandy made the competition seem somewhat inappropriate but as one official said, we’re all one Jersey Shore, and from the looks of it, even on a grey, windy day, it’s hard to argue with that.