By Lauren Wanko
They’re calling it a major milestone. Crews this morning drove the first steel sheet piling into the sand in Mantoloking.
“This project is designed to withstand a 1 percent chance of a 100-year storm,” said Hatch Mott MacDonald Project Manager Robert Mainberger.
About four miles of steel sheet pilings will be installed in both Mantoloking and Brick Township’s beaches this summer. Each sheet interlocks with the next to create a complete, uninterrupted bulkhead underneath the Army Corps sand dunes, which aren’t built yet. The steel sheets are 45 feet long and 4.75 feet wide.
“The primary purpose of this building, of this effort, will be to protect Route 35 and critical infrastructure in the state. It’s also here to protect homes and property,” said Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin.
The Federal Highway Administration will pick up 80 percent of the nearly $24 million price tag. The state will cover the rest. The steel pilings will be driven 30 feet below sea level and crews will replace the sand at the very top of the piling. The Army Corps is expected to begin its beach replenishment project this December or January. Commissioner Martin says less than 400 easements are needed along the coast. The majority are in Ocean County.
“The governor made it clear. We’re gonna be using whatever legal action to get those easements at the end of the day,” Martin said.
As for the easements needed in Mantoloking for this steel sheeting project, Mayor George Nebel said, “We took those easements for the project under the Disaster Control Act.”
Mantoloking’s mayor says the project is critical for this beach community, which was devastated by Sandy. There are more than 520 homes in Mantoloking. Officials say every home was damaged and now 20 percent of the housing stock here is gone.
“Who would build without protection? That’s why we want this project,” Nebel said. “So I think we’ll see a lot more building permit applications after they see we’ve protected the beach.”
Oceanfront homeowner Marilyn D’Alessandro eagerly watched as the pilings arrived in town.
“I think it’s wonderful. When they started coming in the other day I felt like it was Christmas. It was like the presents under the tree, but you can’t open them yet,” she said.
The project is just as important to Brick Township Mayor John Ducey.
“We had 8,000 homes damaged and $548 million worth of ratables. We’re still down about $500 million in ratables,” he said.
The beaches will remain accessible, except for a 500-square-foot area crews will work within. The project is expected to be completed by late October.