Sand replenishment taking place in Ocean City, New Jersey, in January 2023. Photo courtesy of Ted Kingston

NJ - Money spent replenishing Jersey Shore’s disappearing beaches to hit a record $3B

Sand dollars of a different variety keep washing in and out of the surf at the Jersey Shore. This fall and winter, work is taking place on about $52 million in beach replenishment across five towns along New Jersey’s coastline.

Between work done at the start of the year and some recently completed this summer, New Jersey has reached $2.98 billion spent on sand replenishment since some of the state’s earliest projects began in 1936. With the latest round of projects, that puts the state on track to hit more than $3 billion in spending.

So far, more than 240 million cubic yards of sand have been poured across the New Jersey coast, according to new figuresfrom Western Carolina University, which maintains a database that was updated this week to reflect the latest “episodes” or completed projects. The total money spent has been adjusted for inflation.

The practice of replenishment, also called beach nourishment, is a strategy that guarantees wide beaches with plentiful dunes and is one that dates back nearly a century. State and federal officials emphasize that no tactic has been more effective at affordably combating beach erosion, preventing strong waves from damaging shore property and ensuring beaches — instead of homes — take the brunt of major storms like Hurricane Sandy.

An NJ Advance Media report, “The Disappearing Beach,”examined the increasing dependency and mounting cost of beach replenishment along the Jersey Shore — and whether it was time to consider alternatives.

Officials at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers say it turns to the strategy of sand replenishment after careful and complex analysis that can take years. Taxpayers cover the costs of the projects at a split that can depend on the replenishment but typically breaks down to 65% in federal tax money, and the remaining 35% divided between the state and municipality.

Some critics like the Surfrider Foundation claim replenishment is wasteful of sand resources, will ultimately not be cost-effective and only spurs more shore development. Critics also say it has been relied upon so much that it’s blotted out other coastal protective steps like heavily investing in living shorelines and strategically retreating from some parts of the shore.

“In my opinion, it’s kind of a fool’s errand. You put the sand down, the next nor’easter that comes washes it away. You saw that last year all along the coast ... right after the last sand replenishment up on the north end of Monmouth County, there was a nor’easter a few weeks later,” said Don Greenburg, the at-large chair for the Jersey Shore chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.

“It’s not replenishment,” Greenburg added. “You’re just dumping sand on the beach. It’s going to take some political will to spend dollars for other resiliency solutions.”

After visiting a Toms River beach in Ocean County at the end of September, officials there said more than $300,000 may be needed again from township coffers to make up for a lost dune post-Tropical Storm Ophelia. Due to a lack of federal sand replenishment likely until 2025, North Wildwood is also taking a financial hit to bolster its beach defenses.

Enough to fill 73,000 Olympic-sized pools

According to an analysis by Andrea Welker, dean of The College of New Jersey’s School of Engineering, more than 240 million cubic yards of sand poured on our coast in the past 87 years is enough to fill more than 73,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools, 101 Las Vegas Spheres, 101 MetLife Stadiums, 175 Empire State Buildings and more than 24 million dump trucks.

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