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N. Wildwood Beach Filling on Track for July 4 Completion

N. Wildwood Beach Filling on Track for July 4 Completion

By Christopher South

Limited beach space caused North Wildwood to enact a ban on beach cabanas and umbrellas over 8 feet in diameter. Some would like the ban removed after the beach fill project is done, while others would like to see it remain.
A sea of tents on an Ocean City beach is an indication that tourism in Cape May County remains strong. 
File Photo
Limited beach space caused North Wildwood to enact a ban on beach cabanas and umbrellas over 8 feet in diameter. Some would like the ban removed after the beach fill project is done, while others would like to see it remain.

NORTH WILDWOOD – The state Department of Transportation’s replenishment project for the city’s beaches is progressing, with a July 4 deadline in sight.

Mayor Patrick Rosenello said crews from H&L Marine Dredging and Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. are working 24 hours a day to complete the project, which by its end will have placed around 2 billion pounds of sand on the beach.

The North Wildwood inlet beach before and after the current beach fill project began. The inlet beach will still be one of the narrowest in the city, but a big improvement over the previous, highly eroded beach. Photo Credit: PJ Hondros / North Wildwood Coastal Processes Facebook page

“I couldn’t be happier,” Rosenello said.

The mayor said the beach north of 9th Avenue is open to the public and acknowledged that the city was falling behind the contractor in opening beach accesses.

He said the contractor has been filling four-block sections of the beach at a time, and only slowed somewhat to build up the beach – which he said was not quite a dune – between 10th and 15th avenues, the latter being the site of the North Wildwood Beach Patrol Headquarters.

The mayor said he hoped to see the project completed by July 4, barring any delays.

Rosenello’s demeanor was lighter than in previous discussions of the need for beach replenishment and bulkheads to protect lives and property in North Wildwood. The city has been in court with the state Department of Environmental Protection over the city’s requests for emergency authorizations to work on the beaches and the state’s complaints that the city did not wait for the OK to proceed.

The DEP gave its authorization on Sept. 12, 2023, for the city to install a metal bulkhead around the lifeguard headquarters after remnants of tropical storm Ophelia, followed by a northeast storm, scoured away the entire dune at some points in front of the headquarters.

Rosenello said the office of Gov. Phil Murphy reached out to the city in an attempt to move forward in mitigating the severe erosion on the beaches, which are the economic engine of the Wildwoods. The governor called on the DOT to take the lead on the North Wildwood project, which began on Monday, June 3.

On Friday, June 7, Murphy made a trip to North Wildwood, where he met with Rosenello and other city officials, representatives from the two dredging companies, state elected officials who represent North Wildwood and the rest of the First Legislative District, and the DOT. Rosenello said he was extremely happy with the response of the governor’s office, Murphy’s chief of staff and the DOT.

He had praise for the DOT’s Office of Maritime Resources, which is overseeing the project.

“The DOT team has been nothing but spectacular,” Rosenello said. “It’s been 49 days since the governor directed the project to happen to the day the pumping started.”

“The DOT is a tremendously proficient and efficient government agency.”

The mayor said that was “absolutely unheard of” for the magnitude of the project. On Tuesday, June 18, after the regular North Wildwood City Council meeting, he said the project, which was originally slated to place 330,000 cubic yards of sand on city beaches, would ultimately be depositing about 700,000 cubic yards, which he said was just under 2 billion pounds of sand, taken from Hereford Inlet.

The process includes pumping a slurry of about 80% seawater and 20% sand onto the beaches. The water runs off or percolates into the sand, and the pumped sand remains on the beach.

Umbrellas and Cabanas

People on social media have recently addressed the issue of the beach fill project as it relates to umbrellas and cabanas and whether the City Council will lift the ban once the beach fill is complete.

“We will still have some fairly narrow beaches at the inlet and in the south end,” Rosenello said. “I have talked to people who are for the ban and others who are against it. We will revisit the cabanas once the project is finished.”

In April the city enacted restrictions on umbrellas and cabanas, allowing umbrellas no larger than 8 feet in diameter and no more than 7.5 feet tall. Cabanas were banned entirely as part of an effort to make more space for visitors.

Beach Smoking Ban

At the June 18 meeting, a resident raised the issue of the smoking ban on North Wildwood beaches, asking for more enforcement. Rosenello told her she should tell a lifeguard when someone is smoking on the beach, and the lifeguard will advise supervisors of the infraction. The supervisors will hand the smoker a card that explains the ban.

“After they do that we normally have 100% compliance,” the mayor said.

He said the city is taking the same approach to the cabana ban. If a person refuses to comply, the beach patrol will notify the police.

Contact the reporter, Christopher South, at csouth@cmcherald.com or 609-886-8600, ext. 128.

Reporter

Christopher South is a reporter for the Cape May County Herald.

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