Smith, US Army Corps of Engineers Brig. Gen. Tickner meet to address severe beach erosion in Bay Head
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) hosted a meeting this week with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Brigadier General Thomas Tickner, commander of the North Atlantic Region, along with State Department of Environmental Protection and local officials to discuss short-term, mid-term and long-term fixes to the severe beach erosion in Bay Head Borough most recently caused by Winter Storm Orlena in February.
The meeting follows a meeting Smith hosted in February, in Bay Head with federal, state and local officials—a meeting at which the Army Corps agreed to expedite permits and provide expert technical advice needed to address the extraordinary dangerous 18-foot cliffs the storm created at the edge of the dunes.
“Bay Head’s beaches endured heavy—and at times extremely hazardous—damage over the winter,” said Smith. “We need to proceed to the planned maintenance work in fall of 2022, with an eye looking toward a sustainable longer-term solution.”
Bay Head was part of a 13-mile USACE beach replenishment project at the Jersey Shore completed in 2019 to protect against storms like Orlena or Super Storm Sandy. The one-square mile town’s beach has been one of the “hot spots” of the project that experienced severe erosion from Orlena, raising concerns from town officials about the dune project’s ability to withstand similar or multiple storms in the future.
“As recognized by the Army Corps of Engineers, Bay Head has worked hard and done a good job on its own in restoring its beaches for the near term—the summer season,” said Smith, who walked the beaches before the meeting. “But while the Corps is scheduled to do more extensive maintenance in 2022, the borough cannot be expected to bear the cost of a permanent solution. We agreed to work for a long-term fix that could include extended and higher jetties, which will protect the beaches.”
“Shoreline protection is a partnership: USACE was proud to provide technical assistance to support state and local municipalities in the maintenance and repair of this long-term project,” said Brig. Gen. Tickner, commander of USACE’s North Atlantic Division.
Smith’s meeting this week comes after an April declaration by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of Orlena as a major disaster, which allows emergency funding for certain beach maintenance and major repair expenses necessitated by the recent storm. Based on the FEMA decision to help in some ways, Smith pressed the Corps to use the designation to advance their own beach replenishment programs. While USACE acknowledged the support FEMA will give under the emergency declaration, the Corps said their own benchmarks were not met. Smith reiterated the need for support at all levels.
PHOTOS: At top, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) asked the US Corps of Engineers to come to Bay Head on May 24th to discuss possible solutions to the severe erosion to Bay Head’s beaches caused by Winter Storm Orlena in February. From left are Army Corps Commander Lt. Colonel Park, Rep. Smith, Mayor Bill Curtis, and Brig. Gen. Tickner. Lower photo: Among other damage, the coastal storm left Bay Head with dangerous 18-foot vertical sand dune cliffs, which Rep. Smith and Mayor Curtis toured in February.