So let me get this straight. We had the first tropical storm of the year, one of the largest beach replenishment projects ever on the East Coast began on LBI, the ocean temps finally broke the 50-degree mark, and a great white shark that has impeccable social media skills has been hanging around off our coast.
What a week for Liquid Lines! Where do I begin?
This is Mary Lee, who paid our local waters a visit last weekend. She was tagged in 2012, at 3,500 pounds. Now she’s likely 4,000 pounds, with over 34,000 followers on Twitter.
I’ll tell you where I begin – with that 4,000-pound carcharias offshore, aka, Mary Lee.
For those of you who don’t know Mary Lee … oh hell, everybody knows Mary Lee. She has over 32,000 followers on Twitter. She got New Jersey all fired up this weekend when she “pinged” off AC, Holgate and then was about 2,000 feet off the beach in Lavallette.
Here at The SandPaper, we’re supposed to cover such toothy oceanic novelties, but you have to love the way the Philly and New York news sources have been tripping over themselves to get to the figurative blood in the water, even though there is no actual blood in the water.
“Hey Ralph, Memorial Day is comin’ up. Do we have any salacious, titillating and journalistically questionable nuggets on da the Jersey Shaw we can run?”
“The Shaw, you know. Seaside Heights, where we went after that hurricane for tree days, with da rolla costa in the watah?”
“Well, I hear there’s a great white shark and she’s Tweetin’ from the ocean.”
“Oh, dat’s good stuff. A Tweetin’ shark. I’ll bet she’s hungry. Dat’ll go viral. Let’s see if we can get people all worked up unnecessarily right before da tourism season.”
“All right already. I’m on it.”
My favorite headline was on the Gawker-owned blog, Jezebel.com, that read, “Hey, New York: A Pregnant Great White Shark Is Coming to Eat You.”
While this kind of insight into the travel schedule of an apex predator is interesting, I don’t feel the real story here is about some anomaly of a fish looking for a snack. The numbers of great whites are on the rebound. I think the story is that there are possibly great whites without tags cruising through our waters on a regular basis. They don’t make headlines and we never know they’re there. If you want something to be scared of, the recent schools of psycho bluefish are probably more of a risk than Mary Lee.
I’m just waiting for her to photobomb some selfie of a SUP’er showing off his abs …
SHIP BOTTOM’S NEW ACREAGE: If that newly pumped beach reached any farther toward Europe, we’d have to start speaking Portuguesa. The current Ship Bottom beach replenishment project is massive.
Last Thursday, the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection held a press conference on the Fifth Street beach in front of the pipes that were delivering offshore sand to our oceanfront. All of the “dignitaries,” as they were called, were there: assemblymen, mayors, county freeholders, U.S. Army Corps officials and DEP directors.
In the spirit of full disclosure, yes, I am a journalist covering the story, but I have been involved with groups campaigning for better beach replenishment projects for over a decade now. The last several years, I have worked very specifically on the Ship Bottom portion of this whole round of replenishment, which, for the record, is a $128-million, 8.2-million-cubic-yard job, numbers that the state is just tickled pink about. I live in Ship Bottom. I surf in Ship Bottom. It’s where we will pass on our oceangoing traditions to the next generation. I don’t pretend to be an objective observer on this one.
To bring everyone up to speed on some recent history, folks in Ship Bottom noticed some of the steep drop-off and no-sandbar beaches caused by replenishment in other towns the last few rounds of dredge and fill and, with the help of Alliance for a Living Ocean, decided to do something about it. To be specific, they actually organized and bought it to the attention of borough hall instead of just bitching about it on Facebook (although there’s plenty of that too).
Mayor Huelsenbeck listened to the concerns and started a formal dialogue between the town, the DEP and Corps. The result was that the Army Corps would try a 1/20 slope in certain areas to try to mimic the natural slope and get a nice beach for swimming that still protected the Island. Knowing the history of this issue, it was a monumental achievement, and other towns were following suit. Score one for the democratic process. Before I get into this, I will say that the very, very, very, very good news is that in the sections that are finished, there does seem to be somewhat of a sandbar offshore. Even at dead high tide, I saw a few guys surfing a recently pumped beach.
But there is the issue of the size of the beach. Ship Bottom had benefited from the projects in Surf City and Brant Beach. And at the end of April, it was huge – bigger than anyone has ever seen it, with many dunes that have stood through our most historic storms.
But who wouldn’t want a little extra security? The Army Corps explained that it wouldn’t require the scope of the Harvey Cedars project because it was a different dynamic. It wasn’t going to interfere with the sandbar (which also serves to help the project last longer) .There was no need to mess around much past the waterline because the beach was already wide.
Most agreed that would be great to prepare us for future storms, especially since 100 percent of the money was coming from earmarked federal Sandy relief funds. And if you’re the mayor of the town, you take any opportunity to protect your constituency. The Corps has a design template of where they want the beach to be, and a “construction template,” which is where the amount that the ocean will shave off, to bring them to the profile template. So we all figured that the contracted company, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock, would just “top us off,” bolster up the dunes and move on down. Everybody wins.
So let me reiterate: The beach was already nearly as wide as the Army Corps’ design template, which was good news to everyone.
When Great Lakes showed up in late April to do that one last survey before the construction began, it found the beaches were considerably bigger than the previous survey. Any local who went up to the top of the dunes noted how the beaches had grown thanks to natural flow, but also projects in Brant Beach and Surf City. But overall, it supported the notion that the beach was already nearly as wide as the Army Corps’ design template.
Common sense would say, “fill us to the design template and take an early lunch, boys. Thanks for everything. The hard hat is a good look on you.” But Great Lakes was contracted to provide 591 cubic yards for Ship Bottom.
If you’re not directly involved, this stuff is harder to understand than field hockey. As a project starts, the amount of sand they pump can change at the last minute, give or take 15 percent without having to renegotiate the bid, if the beach has grown or eroded since the last survey. However, the last survey was early 2013, incidentally, four months after a little storm called Sandy. But now, the town, the DEP and the Army Corps can’t simply ask for less sand at that point because the price of said sand has already been contracted.
The beachfill has begun in Ship Bottom on a fairly wide and healthy beach. So why is Ship Bottom getting so much sand and what can we expect? Photo by: Jon Coen
Put simply, we’re getting 503 cubic yards. The beach will be 130 feet wider and it was huge to begin with. The legal complications meant that to change the amount of sand would require halting the project, which would threaten the funding. It’s a bureaucratic “use it now or lose it” situation. Essentially, Ship Bottom will get 15 percent less sand than we thought, but far more than we need. And folks in town are none too happy about carefully planted and cultivated dune vegetation being buried, although that has been another clouded issue from the beginning. I actually saw guys who had nothing to do with Great Lakes chainsawing through natural growth on the back side of a dune.
The Army Corps project manager told me on Thursday, as the beach was growing exponentially behind him, “We will take as much protection as we can get.” Despite the fact that the beach was already nearly as wide as the Army Corps’ design template, Ship Bottom is getting extra sand. And not knowing when Congress might appropriate the cash for another round in Ship Bottom, the Army Corps wants as many cubic yards as possible, no matter how ridiculous it looks. And right now, it looks ridiculous, despite how beautifully those “dignitaries” described it to the press.
Let’s also not forget the company doing the dredging has a powerful lobby and, despite what our community wants, can essentially hold our feet to the fire so it gets paid every cent. Sometimes, it’s more like our testicles to the shorebreak, but they seem to be getting a little more flexible.
I have to repeat that Mayor Huelsenbeck and the DEP worked really hard with us to get an alternate profile to this project. Yet I worry the modifications will be negligible because of all the new square miles that “Point Arlington” is accruing.
The other silver lining is that the DEP was able to convince the Army Corps to extend the 1/20 experimental slopes to a wider portion. Instead of 1,000-foot long areas of modification from Ninth to 11th Street, and 25th to 29th Street, they will try the modified recreational beach from Fifth to 13th and 23rd Street to 29th. The DEP is shooting for a total of 3,650 feet of modified area.
I got to chatting with one of the dredge company guys and without knowing that I was involved in any of this, he verified that they were doing a 1/20 slope, so no one is just blowing smoke.
The DEP is under the impression that Ship Bottom’s shallow bathymetry will mean that even at 130 feet, it won’t disrupt the sandbar. They say the hopper barge has found some really nice grain size sand offshore and seem confident that the profile will tie into the natural slope a lot better than places like Harvey Cedars.
One thing we have working against us is that it’s almost summer and we will trend out of nor’easter season. So barring an unusually close hurricane this summer, we’re not going to see much sand moving. However, that 130 feet of extra beach is going to start shaving off pretty quickly and Great Lakes still has to work some of the sand around.
I speak for a lot of people when I say I really hope this works out and we don’t develop that steep drop-off like Cedars did or northern Surf City in 2011 when parents packed up their kids and came to Ship Bottom. Ship Bottom hosts more New Jersey families (primarily working class) and day-trippers on our beaches than any other town on the Island.
So I invite those dignitaries to come back down to Ship Bottom in July. I hope they all bring their families. I’ll have a picnic blanket for the Army Corp. I just want them to take off their shoes, stand in the sand with the people who live and love Ship Bottom and see what a bureaucratic beach looks like. We’ll all agree that we are better protected from the next storm, and that’s something. But it will be nice if they are comfortable with their kids swimming there, too. I’ll lug up some extra longboards if Congressman LoBiondo wants to paddle out, but will there be any kind of sandbar? I hope there is, and I’ll say obrigado.
SWELL WRAP: The surf has been typically May-ish these last two weeks, a couple waves, nothing great, but waves. Through the years, we’ve had some fairly historic nor’easters in May. Even last year, we enjoyed some pretty heavy water at the end of month number five, right before we settled into a summertime pattern.
The waves we’ve had came courtesy of that northeast blow at the start of the month. This peaked on Sunday, May 3. While forecasts called for 2- to 3-foot, there were head-high waves and maybe a few just overhead, which was a nice surprise. A few surfers tried their luck in Surf City, but the better option seemed to be the South End, which was grooming it a little more. The better sets were head-high and offered some left wall. No real barrels, but waves nonetheless. The wind was light that Sunday morning but never went properly offshore. We couldn’t buy an offshore wind before this week.
Last week was pretty uninspiring as well. There may have been a rideable wave here and there, but you wouldn’t be able to tell much with that fog. I found a few 1- to 2-footers amid the pea soup on Sunday. Nothing fantastic, but the water is considerably warmer. It spiked to the mid-50s on Sunday.
The wind was light again on Monday and although the temps soared into the 70s, we didn’t have that fog. Days like that will finally help the sun get down into the water column to make a real difference. It was the first real beach day and there was a tiny wave for those who were into it.
“ANA” ’NOTHER HURRICANE SEASON: According to all the meteorology eggheads, this is supposed to be another sleeper of a hurricane season. And really, any year can be a dud or a barnburner, depending on your perspective. If we only saw one hurricane and it only claimed your house, you wouldn’t call it “inactive.” Last year was a slow year, but almost every storm sent us some kind of swell.
This year, which is forecasted to be less active than average, we already had our first named storm. And those pencil-pushing nerds will rightly tell you, that is not a sign that it will be a record season.
Ana started as a non-tropical disturbance, but developed over the Gulf Stream last Friday. She hit tropical storm strength, the earliest named storm since 2003. Ana hugged the southeast coast, not strong enough to cause any real waves or real problems. Then the young lass hit South Carolina and was quickly downgraded. At press time, she did look to be a local moderate wavemaker. I’ll have updates next week, but tropical season is officially open.
EVENTS: I’ve already taken enough of your time, so I’ll be brief this week. On Saturday,WaveHog Surf Shop turns 10 and will be having a party to celebrate. Happy Birthday, ya goofs.
The following weekend is Memorial Day, and yes, it’s early this year, so let’s just get that conversation out of the way now. Beachfill will still be happening in Ship Bottom, so it will be an inconvenience, but the whole project is moving right along.
May 30 is Hop Sauce Fest, which begins with South End Surf N’ Paddle’s Hop Sauce Tune Up race with registration at 9 a.m. Hop Sauce fest starts at 11 a.m. and runs to 6 p.m. The following weekend, June 6-7, is the Lighthouse International Film Festival.
Since the first day of summer falls on a Saturday, there are a whole lot of good things happening on June 20, including the LBI Surf Swap at Brighton Beach Surf Shop, Jetty presenting Mikey DeTemple’s new film at Ron Jon’s and Chris Pfeil’s solo photo show “Staring at the Sea,” in Surf City. All good stuff.
The season has officially turned. Winter is over. The phragmites have finally started growing in, making all the marshes green again, a huge morale booster each May. Next week, you will find Liquid Lines every week in Section II. Enjoy May and don’t do something stupid that will get you bit in the ass. Because if you mess with Mary Lee, everyone will know it.
– Reposted from The Sandpaper