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Cape May Looks at Low Lying Areas, Seawall Replacement

 

By Jack Fichter

CAPE MAY — While Cape May is better fortified against coastal storms sending seawater onto Beach Avenue, parts of the city’s seawalls need replacement, and global warming may bring new challenges with a rising sea level.
Superintendent of Public Works Robert Smith updated City Council at an Oct. 6 meeting on plans to deal with coastal storm flooding. He said a consulting company has been working with the city to find vulnerable areas.
Smith said between 1989 and 1991, the city received its initial beach renourishment in which 1.3 million cubic yards of sand were placed on the beaches, 16 outfall pipes were extended and the Baltimore and Trenton avenue jetties were lengthened.
He said 20 years ago, seawater on Beach Avenue and beyond was fairly common. Smith showed council a number of photos of flooding from coastal storms, which occurred on an average of every other year.
To remedy flooding, the city built the Benton Avenue Pumping Station, and the county installed a pumping station on Madison Avenue.
“Most of those efforts was to remove seawater which was coming over the seawall,” said Smith.
Since beach renourishment, the city has rarely seen such flooding, he said.
Smith said the city needed to replace parts of its existing seawall. A couple of weather events have sent water over the seawall in East Cape May and there has been flooding from the back bay, he said.
The city will be using a reverse 9-1-1 system that will phone residents to let them know of flooding and other hazardous situations. Another part of the plan is back up generators to power the pumping stations.
Smith said the county is looking at solutions to reduce flooding on Wilmington Avenue by decreasing the number of outfall pipes. The city is also looking at enhancing the pumping station at Venice Avenue and Elmira Street.
Smith said the city is constantly working on sand dunes which are growing in a seaward direction. The county is providing mapping to show Cape May’s low spots.
In some areas, seawater comes through storm water drainage pipes such as Grant Street, said Smith.
Mayor Edward J. Mahaney Jr. said he has looked at county data showing the effect of global warming and what it will do to the Cape May area in the next 100 years and areas that need to be remediated now.
Smith said global warming projections show the seawater rising as much as 3 feet over the next 100 years. He said Cape May may already be experiencing some minor effects of climate change.
“It appears to me that we’ve seen much more flooding in low areas in recent years than we did in the past,” said Smith.
He said a good example has been Yacht and Venice avenues and Elmira Street. The city needs to work closely with the county as well as West Cape May and Cape May Point, said Smith.
Storm water drainage from Cape May Point goes through the Cape Meadows to Cape Island Creek. Smith said he was looking forward to an engineering study to see how that situation could be improved upon.
He said in the long term, he would like repair or replace the seawall from Wilmington to Madison Avenue. Smith will return to council in January with a priority list for repairs or replacement.
Mahaney said the work would require state and federal approval and funding.

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