Ortley Beach erosion. (Photo by Doug Hood)

NJ - Ocean County NJ to cover local share of beach replenishment

Ocean County has agreed to pay the entire local cost of the latest federal beach replenishment project, providing relief for barrier island towns that were facing hefty bills for the work.

"It's great that they are going to pay the whole thing," said Bay Head Mayor Bill Curtis, who added that mayors learned of the county's decision at a Thursday morning meeting. "The county, they have just done a marvelous job. I can't thank them enough."

Bay Head's local share of the beach work is expected to be $1.4 million, a hefty amount for a small town with a $6 million budget. Neighboring Mantoloking's bill is almost $1.3 million. Toms River has the highest estimated bill at $2 million.

Before the county confirmed it would pay the entire local part of the beach replenishment bill, Bay Head and Mantoloking were considering taking out loans to pay for their portion of the work. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to award a contract for the work in March, with beach replenishment likely to start in the spring.

The total bill for Ocean County municipalities is about $7.55 million. The overall cost of the project is about $60 million, with the Army Corps of Engineers covering half and the state and county covering the remainder, according to Ocean County officials.

"Kudos to the (Ocean County) Commissioners, they stepped up. They made everybody whole," Toms River Mayor Maurice B. "Mo" Hill Jr. said. "They are going to send one check to the (state) DEP on behalf of all the communities on the barrier island."

Brick Mayor John G. Ducey said he met with Commission Deputy Director Gary Quinn and other barrier island mayors Thursday morning about the beach replenishment deal. Beach rebuilding along Brick's portion of barrier island typically costs local taxpayers more than $1 million, the mayor said.

"It was a very expensive hit to our budgets," Ducey said.

At the Ocean County Administrative Building on Thursday, Quinn said the decision was driven by the towns' economic hardships.

"We know our local municipalities have faced financial struggles as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic," he said in a statement shared with local media. "And we also are well aware of the economic and environmental importance of our beaches."

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