Cost of dune upkeep worries Lavallette
NJDEP says local share of cost is not a new policy
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LAVALLETTE — While the borough eagerly awaits the federally funded coastal dune system along northern Ocean County, the cost to maintain such protection could be a concern.
“It does [worry] me to some extent,” Mayor Walter LaCicero told The Ocean Star on Feb. 15.
The funding issue came up at the borough’s Feb. 6 council meeting, where news that the borough would be footing part of the bill for dune maintenance was met with surprise.
“We got an agreement this past week regarding the dune and beach replenishment project,” Mayor LaCicero said at the start of the Feb. 6 council meeting.
“Everything that we have heard all along, they had told us they would pay for it and all the maintenance ... maintenance down the road, a portion of that will be the state’s responsibility and we’ll be responsible for 25 percent of the [state’s] portion.
“I don’t know if that represents a different policy than they used in southern Ocean County and Monmouth County. This is the first time I have heard of a co-pay on beach replenishment.
“They told us it’s free for 50 years so I don’t know whether we should be shocked by the change in policy.”
The Northern Ocean County Replenishment Project calls for dunes to be built to an elevation of 22 feet and beaches will be constructed from 100 to 300 feet wide and to an elevation of 8.5 feet, according to a press release from the Army Corps of Engineers.
Also, according to the press release, the project area will be eligible to receive periodic nourishment over the course of 50 years to replace sand lost through erosion.
On Jan. 10 a contract was awarded to Weeks Marine Inc., of Cranford, for $92 million to construct a dune that is planned to run from the Manasquan Inlet to Barnegat Inlet. The total cost of the contract could be $128 million if options are awarded.
The contract includes the construction of dune crossovers, placement of sand fencing and dune grass plantings.
While the maintenance of the dunes is going to wind up partially on the shoulders of the borough, the construction will still be paid for by ACE, according to an agreement sent to the borough from the state.
“It says that the federal government is coming in and we do not need to make any contribution toward the initial installation of the dunes,” Borough Administrator John O. Bennett III told The Ocean Star on Feb. 14, adding that maintenance of the dune built by ACE over the 50 years of the project would be split down the middle between the federal government and the state.
“Of the non-federal [cost], 75 percent will be paid by the state and 25 percent will be the responsibility of the municipality,” Mr. Bennett said.
The final cost of the project is not yet known, according to Mr. Bennett, who stated that the final cost would be subject to a future state aid agreement.
According to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection [NJDEP], there is currently no break down of the possible cost to towns.
According to Bob Considine, spokesman for the NJDEP, the cost share obligation is nothing new.
“No, not a new policy,” he told The Ocean Star on Feb. 8.
“Renourishments are cost-shared between the federal government and whoever the non-federal sponsor is, in this case, that’s DEP.”
That is something that Mayor LaCicero rebuffed.
“It was never presented to us that we would have to pay a share,” he said.
“I actually got kind of an apology from the DEP that they ‘dropped the ball’ in their words and did not make it clear to us.
“What had been presented me was that it was free construction and free maintenance for 50 years. I knew after 50 years it would be all on us but I did not realize it was anything prior to that,”he continued.
Mayor LaCicero said he met with representatives of the NJDEP on Feb. 15 about the agreement on dune maintenance.
“They have provided me with examples of other projects that have similar language in their agreements,” he said.
“The agreement is not actually a requirement for us to pay at this point, it is subject to a further agreement between the state and [the borough] as to how much we’ll pay.”
He added that such an agreement would hinge on state aid to help with the maintenance cost.
Due to the unpredictable nature of storms, it is not known how much the town’s share would be.
“It’s very difficult to try to assess the potential impact on the borough or any other town,” Mayor LaCicero said.
In the future, to help pay for the dune protection, the borough might need to use the beach revenues to help pay for dune upkeep, he said.
“It depends on how things go here but it is certainly is a viable source for additional income to help us meet that burden,” Mayor LaCicero said, adding there are no increases to beach fares as a result of the project expected at least for the near term.
“It’s fairly certain that at some point in the next 40 years we will have to come up with our share and beach fees are the logical solution to that.
“I don’t see any reason why the local taxpayer, the 2,400 properties here, would have to pay to maintain the beach that literally hundreds of thousands of people get to enjoy.”