Federal officials have awarded a $57 million contract to widen beaches in New Jersey's Cape May County, part of broader effort along its entire 127-mile coastline that includes building protective sand dunes on most of the state's beaches.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded a contract this week to Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company. The Illinois-based firm will reconstruct beaches and dunes in Ocean City, Strathmere and Sea Isle City.

Ocean City, NJ (YouTube)

"This project will provide critical protection to these coastal resort communities," said Robert Martin, the state's environmental protection commissioner.

Work will begin this winter. It was authorized in 2007 but not funded by Congress until last year as part of the post-Superstorm Sandy rebuilding effort.

The cost of initial construction will be paid entirely by the federal government under legislation passed by Congress following Sandy.

Residents in the southern end of Ocean City have been waiting for the replenishment work for years, even as beaches in the more erosion-prone northern half were fixed.

Work from 34th Street in Ocean City extending south to the boundary of Corson's Inlet State Park will involve construction of a dune 13 feet above sea level, with a 25-foot-width at the top and a berm extending 100 feet from the seaward base of the dune.

On Ludlum Island, which includes Strathmere and Sea Isle, the dune will be about 15 feet high and the berm 50 feet wide.

Following initial construction, the beaches will be nourished periodically over 50 years with the federal government paying for 65 percent of the work and the state paying 35 percent. The state will then get reimbursement from the local municipalities for 25 percent of the state share, which works out to about 9 percent of the total project cost.

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