Every few years, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredges sand from the Atlantic Ocean and pumps it to a 21-mile stretch of beach from the Borough of Sea Bright to Manasquan, New Jersey. This coastal storm risk management and erosion control project aims to reduce hurricane and storm damage to New Jersey’s beaches. Work is currently underway on the latest $26 million cycle of beach renourishment.
The Sea Bright to Manasquan project received Congressional approval in the early 90s after a series of storms devastated New Jersey’s coast, causing millions of dollars in damage and severe beach erosion. In 1994, the Corps began construction on a 100-foot-wide beach berm to prevent damage from future coastal storms and to reduce the risk of flooding.
During large storms, the beach berm absorbs wave energy, protecting the structures and infrastructure behind the beach from storm surges and flood damages. Additional sand is periodically required to ensure that the beach provides continued protection from storms and hurricanes.
“This cycle of beach renourishment will restore more than 1 million cubic yards of sand to New Jersey beaches,” said Jason Shea, New York District project manager. “It will help protect local communities, prevent damages from hurricanes and nor’easters, and benefit the economy.”
The project is 65% federally funded and 35% non-federally funded by the state of New Jersey. The municipalities receiving sand and Monmouth County contribute to the non-federal share of the project costs. Under the project’s current contract, work began December 20, 2021, and is scheduled for completion by March 1, 2022.
To keep work on schedule, dredging operations run 24/7 on the largest dredge in the country, the Ellis Island. The dredge, owned by Houston, Texas-based contractor Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company, holds up to 15,000 cubic yards of sand. The dredge transports two to four loads per day from the Sea Bright Borrow Area, an underwater sediment source near Sandy Hook, New Jersey, to a pipeline that moves sand to the most-eroded parts of the beach.
The project follows strict protocols to protect the environment, archaeological sites, and historic shipwrecks. The dredging crew must also screen each load for unexploded ordnance, using steel baskets with ¾-inch mesh to filter out potential hazards and large material. Munitions, which include mortar rounds and projectiles, are left over from WWI and WWII, when the Navy conducted open sea disposal of unused munitions and the Army tested weapons at Sandy Hook Proving Ground. When ordnance is found, munitions experts from the nearby Naval Weapons Station Earle and the Corps’ Baltimore District safely collect and dispose of it.
The Sea Bright to Manasquan project is part of a larger beach renourishment project known as the Sandy Hook to Barnegat Inlet project. The Corps’ New York District manages the project in Monmouth County, New Jersey, while the Philadelphia District manages the project in Ocean County, New Jersey. The Sea Bright to Manasquan project is authorized through 2047. The next cycle of beach renourishment will begin in fiscal year 2023.