U.S. Army Corps Aiming to Use Inlets as Future Beachfill Borrow Sites

Next Periodic Nourishment for LBI Scheduled for Fiscal Year 2022
Nov 27, 2019
Photo by: Pat Johnson

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently working toward acquiring permissions to utilize Little Egg Inlet and Barnegat Inlet as potential borrow sites for future beach replenishment projects on Long Beach Island.

This involves going through the National Environmental Policy Act process and coordinating with environmental resource agencies such as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, said Steve Rochette, Army Corps public affairs officer.

As Rochette explained, “The next periodic nourishment for LBI is scheduled for fiscal year 2022 pending available funding. Construction could take place in 2022-2023 depending on when a contract is awarded and equipment availability, but again, (that is) all dependent on available funding.”

“In terms of the borrow sites, we are currently coordinating with the environmental resource agencies,” he added. “We don’t have a scheduled completion date for this; however, we are optimistic to have Little Egg Inlet available to use as a borrow area for southern Long Beach Island during the next periodic nourishment. During the coordination process, issues such as seasonal restrictions will be worked out and ultimately part of the conditions for use as part of the federal beachfill project.”

In early spring of 2018, a project to remove shoals from Little Egg Inlet, funded by the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection’s Shore Protection Fund, was completed. The purpose was to clear a navigable boat channel to accommodate the many “commercial and recreational fishing vessels, private boats and other craft that use the inlet to access Barnegat Bay, Great Bay and the Intracoastal Waterway,” the DEP noted at the time.

The approximately 700,000 cubic yards of sand taken from the inlet were then placed on beaches and dunes from Ocean Street in Beach Haven south through Holgate, which sustained storm-caused erosion.

Barnegat Inlet, meanwhile, is an active federal navigation area the Army Corps typically dredges twice each year. “The project includes the channel between the jetties and also the Oyster Creek channel in the bay,” said Rochette. Sand is removed from the inlet between the jetties and subsequently placed off Barnegat Light and Loveladies.

The Corps also has a pilot dredging and beneficial use project under Section 1122 of the Water Resources Development Act. Rochette detailed the two components of the effort, stating, “For the first component, we are planning to dredge the Barnegat Inlet channel between the jetties and place the sand in the nearshore zone off of Harvey Cedars (in areas susceptible to erosion). This is a one-time effort, scheduled for spring of 2020, but the science and engineering that results could be applied in future beachfill efforts.

“The second component involves dredging the Oyster Creek portion of the channel and doing some sort of island creation in the bay. We are currently working through the details for the two components of the pilot project.”

Lastly, the Trump administration’s recent reversal of a 25-year-old policy to make it simpler for beachfill projects to dredge sand from protected areas does not have an impact on LBI restoration projects. The federal government nixed the Coastal Barrier Resources Act, which shields land from development, but neither Little Egg Inlet nor Barnegat Inlet is included in the Coastal Barrier Resources System.

A Cedar Bonnet Island unit is the only nearby location listed in the CBRS, and, according to Rochette, that site would not be used for beachfill.

The New Jersey chapter of The Wildlife Society, however, had previously urged U.S. Fish and Wildlife to reconsider Little Egg Inlet as a full system unit within the CMRS, rather than an “otherwise protected area,” because of its proximity to the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, which supports piping plovers and other threatened species.

Inclusion in the CBRS is now a moot goal following the Trump administration’s decision, but any dredging of Little Egg Inlet will still have to be approved by environmental entities such as U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

Juliet Kaszas-Hoch

juliet@thesandpaper.net

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