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Monday, May 27, 2024

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Diamond Beach Flooding Persists, Residents Say

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By Shay Roddy

DIAMOND BEACH – Residents in the southwest corner of the Wildwoods are complaining they are dealing with constant flooding and not enough is being done by public officials to correct it.  

After residents brought their concerns to the state, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued notices of violation (NOV) to Lower Township, of which the Diamond Beach section of Five Mile Island is a small part. The town had land cleared and a ditch dug out to allow the water the pipe discharges to better drain. 

The main source of the flooding was identified as an outfall pipe, which was discharging stormwater that did not have a route to lower ground or a larger waterway.  

The municipality had already been working on plans to correct the problem, a June 10, 2021, letter showed. The letter, from Marc DeBlasio, president of DeBlasio & Associates, the municipality’s engineering firm, sent to a local refuge manager with the U.S. Department of the Interior, explained the problem and his firm’s proposed solution.  

DeBlasio wrote, “It was determined that an additional outfall pipe cannot be installed, as the topography in the proposed area is too high to allow for positive flow.”  

DeBlasio asked the Department of the Interior for permission to enter the property to selectively clear vegetation and excavate in the existing swale and creek that runs from the outfall pipe to the larger waterway. 

“Both of these areas are overtaken by vegetation and have gathered sediment that makes stormwater evacuation difficult. During a heavy rainstorm, the system cannot handle the stormwater,” DeBlasio explained. 

Later that month, the DEP issued the NOV, which said the municipality was not in compliance for failing “to implement a program to ensure adequate long-term cleaning, operation and maintenance of all municipally owned or operated stormwater facilities.” 

The municipality responded to the NOV with a plan to work with DeBlasio and the Cape May County Mosquito Commission to survey the area and dig out sedimentation that was filling in a drainage ditch, Larry Hajna, a DEP spokesman, said. 

Implementation of the plan was held off until migratory bird nesting ended in the fall, according to Hajna. The work was completed and confirmed by a DEP site visit Nov. 19, 2021, and the department then considered the matter closed.  

Residents said the problem persisted during January snowstorms.  

“The storm drains are still full to the top,” Susan Zumar, a resident of the area, said in an email to the Herald. “Diamond Beach neighborhood is just discarded by Lower Township. It’s a joke. We pay the highest taxes with very little service.” 

Lower Township Manager Michael Laffey said he isn’t sure how to respond to residents who are saying the solution isn’t good enough, because, in his eyes, the solution is working.  

Laffey pointed out that tidal flooding is a different problem and that maybe in the future a pump station could be considered. He said the flooding in the area is a high-priority item for the municipality.  

“I wish we could fix all the tidal flooding in Cape May County. It’s a really difficult situation when you’re on a peninsula and surrounded by water,” Laffey said.  

Zumar said the municipality needs a real plan for a new drainage system and the area needs new roads because they have been so damaged by the water. She said she and her neighbors were thrilled when the DEP stepped in, thinking a problem she said has persisted for 30 years would finally be solved, but are disappointed by the results.  

Hajna said the DEP is continuing to monitor the area and should the excavation of the ditch be determined to be insufficient to handle stormwater flows, the DEP would anticipate engaging with the municipality on possible additional solutions.  

To contact Shay Roddy, email sroddy@cmcherald.com. 

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