With FEMA Disaster Declaration, Bay Head and other Ocean shore towns become eligible for emergency fed funds to repair damages from winter stormSmith asks Army Corps to reassess severe beach erosion in Bay Head, join FEMA’s help
In a letter to Brigadier General Tickner, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) requested a follow-up meeting with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to revisit and reassess the severe beach erosion in Bay Head and other Jersey Shore towns caused by February’s Winter Storm Orlena. Smith’s request follows the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declaration of Orlena as a ‘major disaster’ and provision of emergency federal funding to repair certain damages inflicted by the intense coastal storm.
“FEMA’s announcement is encouraging news for Bay Head and other Ocean County beach towns that endured significant and hazardous damage this winter,” said Smith, who organized a February meeting in Bay Head with Army Corps Commander Lt. Colonel Park and state, county and local officials to personally assess the town’s damage in the wake of the storm.
“While this declaration offers much needed FEMA support for crucial maintenance repairs, it also provides a new opportunity for the Corps to revisit the significance of this storm and the serious erosion it caused to our beaches, which urgently need sand replenishment—something that is not covered by FEMA,” said Smith.
“The Army Corps must take another look at the severe beach erosion we saw in Bay Head as FEMA’s announcement affirms that the damage to beaches in Ocean and Cape May counties was far more significant than in other nearby places and requires additional federal attention and support,” Smith added.
In February, Smith had urged the Army Corps—which had initially determined that the coastal storm was not a qualifying event for full emergency federal funding—to assess damage at the municipal level, instead of gauging the storm’s overall impact and making a single determination on eligibility for federal emergency dollars.
“When standing in Bay Head viewing the utter destruction of the dunes, it was hard to see how the storm would not be considered a significant or extraordinary event,” Smith said in his letter to the Army Corps of Engineers Commanding General and Division Engineer, Brigadier General Tickner.
“That said, we were disappointed that the Corps determined that the storm was not an ‘extraordinary storm event’ and has not to date offered federal funding to help with the costs of repair and/or fully mitigate the significantly hazardous conditions created by the storm.
“Therefore, based on the affirmation of the declared devastation to the New Jersey coastline and the release of federal funds to help communities recover, I respectfully request a meeting with you and appropriate staff to explore additional emergency assistance the Corps may offer immediately as well as efforts to secure the planned and now emergent renourishment project and critical mitigation strategies.”
At Smith’s request, the Corps had toured the severe beach erosion in Bay Head following the storm, which left the town’s beaches with 18-foot vertical sand dune cliffs that continue to pose serious safety concerns—especially for children at grave risk of plunging over and suffering serious injury or death.
Smith noted that FEMA’s declaration—which includes emergency funding for beach repairment—is a significant development for the state and many Jersey Shore towns, which typically have not been reimbursed for beach maintenance expenses.
PHOTOS: Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) tours the severe erosion to Bay Head’s beaches caused by Winter Storm Orlena in February with Army Corps Commander Lt. Colonel Park. Among other damage, the coastal storm left Bay Head with 18-foot vertical sand dune cliffs.