Bulldozers redistributing sand recovered from the streets of Sea Bright on the borough beach Wednesday morning. Below, contractor Mike Stavola with Governor Chris Christie last week. (Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
It’s been dubbed ‘Mount Sandy,’ and in its enormity, it looms as one of many reminders of the woes inflicted on Sea Bright by Hurricane Sandy on October 29.
We’re talking about a pile of sand so wide and tall upwards of 60 feet, says the contractor who built it that it blocks the view of the ocean from nearly any spot in the municipal beach parking lot.
But the sandpile also stands as a gritty reminder of the rapid progress being made in restoring out the town, while prompting questions about the future of the beaches.
Nearly every grain of the mountain, estimated at 100,000 cubic yards or more, was washed into the streets of Sea Bright, a narrow sandbar municipality pinched between the ocean and the Shrewsbury River.
The morning after the storm, Ocean Avenue was clotted with so much of it, at average depths of five to six feet, that only the hardiest of heavy duty vehicles could traverse it. That morning, Mike Stavola, owner of Cardinal Contracting Company, put crews to work clearing lanes for fire trucks to get around in case of emergency.
For the past 16 days, working around-the-clock, Cardinal, under contract with the borough, has been hauling the sand to a screening machine operated by IEW Construction Group, the state Department of Transportation-designated contractor for the Ocean Avenue (Route 36) cleanup. After being filtered of debris, the sand was hauled to the municipal beach, where it soon formed a view-blocking mesa.
“We’re probably 80 to 90 percent completed” with the street-clearing process, Stavola said Thursday morning. “There’s just some small cleanup to do.”
But what to do with the sand now?
For several days, Cardinal, now a subcontractor on the DOT cleanup, has been whittling down the mountain, spreading sand along the municipal beachfront to a depth of about six feet, “raising the profile” of the beach, in the words of Councilman Read Murphy.
Mayor Dina Long said the activity has been approved by the state Department of Environmental Protection. By coincidence, the agency was scheduled this week to begin overseeing an Army Corps of Engineers beach restoration project that Sea Bright officials had complained would not provide protection for enough of the borough’s oceanfront.
Long said the replenishment and the current sand redistribution effort “are not related projects at all. One does not feed into the other. We’re just putting the sand back where it belongs.”
She expressed hope that the replenishment project would begin as planned, so the beach would be ready for next summer’s tourists. But the Christie Administration has put all coastal bolstering efforts under review with an eye toward “restoring the shore with a more holistic approach, rather than piecemeal,” Long said.
Meantime, Mount Sandy will gradually disappear. As of Thursday morning, Stavola, who also co-owns the Driftwood Cabana Club at the southern end of town, said the redistribution project would take another week if his crews continue working 24 hours a day, as they have been since the storm, and about three weeks on a regular work schedule.
So far, the decision of where the sand goes has involved “a lot of self-direction,” Stavola said. He said he’s advocating for the town to replicate, and possibly surpass the height of, dunes built years ago, as habitats for wild animals and as protection for the town against future storms.