Are NJ’s beaches ready for summer crowds?
LONG BRANCH — Thanks to a relatively calm winter storm season and several replenishment projects along the shore, New Jersey beaches are ready for tens of thousands of visitors over Memorial Day Weekend and throughout the summer, experts said Wednesday at a State of the Shore event in Monmouth County.
Two significant storms took a toll on New Jersey's beaches in the offseason, but they moved through rather quickly and the majority of eroded sand was deposited offshore in sand bars and will gradually move back onto the beaches.
Dr. Jon Miller, a research assistant professor at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, said a late January nor'easter caused moderate to major erosion on several New Jersey beaches, and a mid-March storm named Stella was less intense, shorter in duration and produced less severe coastal erosion.
"Very similar to the January storm, wave heights were also around 20 feet, but again peaked relatively rapidly and then subsided almost as equally as rapidly," Miller told the media.
The January storm brought more than 3 inches of precipitation in some areas and winds topping 50 m.p.h.
The tide gauge in Atlantic City topped the "minor flooding threshold" 10 times this past winter for a total of 42 hours, Miller noted. In comparison, that level was surpassed for 20 hours during Sandy alone, and 15 hours during Jonas in January 2016.
According to Miller, the risk of a "landfalling major hurricane" is less than 1 percent in New Jersey. The risk of tropical storm force winds, however, is fairly high.
"It only takes one storm, so I think it's important that we certainly maintain our vigilance in terms of making sure that our beaches and our communities are as prepared as possible for these storms," he said.
During the event, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin listed 11 projects that, since Sandy in 2012, have either been completed, are underway or are about to get started in order protect the coast from future storms.
The most controversial of those projects, and the most needed — in northern Ocean County — is set to launch Sunday when dredging equipment arrives in Ortley Beach.
Ahead of the long holiday weekend, Martin said New Jersey's beaches are "in great shape" and water quality is "excellent."
Water quality monitoring began May 15, Martin said. It's conducted at 216 points along the ocean and bay.
"In addition, DEP conducts aerial surveillance to look for floatables, debris, algae blooms and anything else that might affect bathing water quality," Martin said. "We run six flights during the week, up and down the coast."
New Jersey's ocean beaches were open 99.9 percent of the time during the 2016 summer, Martin said. Bay beaches were open 99.6 percent of the time. Any issues are typically caused by storm water runoff, which heightens bacteria levels.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at email@example.com.