Little Egg Harbor Bulkhead Project Begins Soon

Little Egg Harbor Bulkhead Project Begins Soon / The Sandpaper / April 26, 2023

By Gina Scala

At the end of Daddy Tucker Drive, the pavement stops and goes straight down to the lagoon. (Photo by Ryan Morrill)

Flanked by the bay to east and the Pine Barrens to the west, Little Egg Harbor Township lies at the southernmost end of Ocean County, about as far from offshore wind development as a Jersey Shore community can be and yet right in the middle of it, too.

“We’re located basically right in between where offshore wind is going to be located and where they may come ashore at Oyster Creek,” Jason Worth, township engineer, said recently. “We’re in the heart of the area that is going to be impacted.”

For the town, being in that category has earned it some financial breathing room after being awarded monies for coastal resiliency projects funded by New Jersey’s first offshore wind developers, Ørsted, a Danish-based private company, and Ocean Wind, its project off the Jersey coast.

“Sometimes you see a grant you try to fit a project (to it) or you have a project that you try to find a grant (for). This one, it was right away, right along the bay, we knew. We’ve had a need for a long time to get bulkheads into certain areas to eliminate erosion, to protect utilities, protect roadways, protect homes,” Worth said, adding the township has low-lying roadways that flood often and are about five to six decades old. “So, we knew we had a project that met the goals of the grant.”

Still, the township went through the process of submitting a letter of interest along with a broad project scope and became one of just seven municipalities from Atlantic, Cape May and Ocean counties to be asked for a full application by the Ocean Wind Pro-NJ Grantor Trust. To make the cut, Little Egg Harbor bested 12 other towns, with project totals of $19 million, more than five times the amount allocated for this round of funding.

In December 2022, the town was awarded $719,250 from the trust, established by Ørsted and Ocean Wind to ensure offshore wind in New Jersey is developed in a sustainable and inclusive way.

“I think we all recognize there’s significant coastal issues coming up now and moving forward. It’s kind of a no-brainer,” Deputy Mayor Dan Maxwell said. “So, as we focus on that, we acknowledge that we need to be looking out for these types of grants so we’re not dumping it all on our taxpayers.”

“There’s a financial cost to any capital improvement projects in any area of town, but it is those capital improvements that will have the biggest benefit for those residents,” Worth added.

The scope of the project includes improvements to storm drainage, replacing the pipe system (which dates back nearly six decades) in the area, and looking at the use of tie valves as well as repaving the roadways, he said.

“We’re going to look at elevating them wherever possible to try to get up above some of the tidal flooding that occurs there and then re-bulkheading in the areas where they are failing, or where there is no bulkhead, and really creating more-resilient roadways and frontages for these homes,” Worth said.

As an example, he said, at the end of Daddy Tucker Drive, the pavement stops and goes straight down to the lagoon.

“If we create a bulkhead that is higher, it won’t flood from the creek as easily,” Worth said, adding the bulkhead work will be done first and contracts have already been awarded.

The bulkhead work is expected to begin this spring or early summer, while the roadwork should be ready to go in the fall, he added.

While discussing a multitude of other grants the township has recently received, including $1 million from the federal government for the recreation complex on Route 539 and $815,000 for sidewalks, curbing and crosswalks as part of the Safe Routes to Schools campaign, Mayor Blaise Scibetta said township officials aren’t interested in being given money just for the sake of it.

“If it’s not through the trust or a grant, we don’t want it. We don’t want to be given money because we don’t want to be (forced) into a predicament where we are given money to do anything or support anything … because when we sat with certain entities to tell them we got the trust … we told them we’re not for or against windmills. We don’t have the proper information,” Scibetta said. “The money we got is through a trust, through the state of New Jersey, that anyone could apply for. It has nothing to do with being for or against windmills.”

Still, he said he did go on record via email saying the committee supported Congressman Jeff Van Drew’s petition to halt all offshore wind activities until a full investigation by federal and state agencies determines whether ongoing work in the waters off the coast is a contributing factor to a record-high number of whale deaths and strandings, dating back to December 2022.

“So, it’s not contradictory. It’s not us talking out of both sides of our mouth,” Scibetta said, adding he is 100% in favor of finding the root cause behind the whale strandings and deaths.

Ocean Wind 1 is expected to be operational in 2024 and would produce enough electricity to power more than 500,000 homes. As proposed, the scope of the project includes up to 98 wind turbine generators, up to three offshore high-voltage alternating current substations, inter-array cables linking the individual turbines to the offshore substations, substation interconnector cables linking the substations to each other, offshore export cables, an onshore export cable system, two onshore substations, and connections to the existing electrical grid in New Jersey.

The wind turbine generators, offshore substation and substation interconnector cables are to be located in New Jersey’s Outer Continental Shelf, roughly 13 nautical miles (15 statute miles) southeast of Atlantic City. The offshore export cables would be buried below the seabed in the Outer Continental Shelf and state of New Jersey-owned submerged lands. The onshore export cables, substations and grid connections would be located in Ocean and Cape May counties.

In January, Newark-based PSEG announced it had agreed to sell Ørsted its 25% stake in Ocean Wind 1. Once approved, Ørsted would be the sole owner of the project. The transaction between the two companies is expected to close in the first half of this year, pending required closing conditions, according to PSEG’s announcement.

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