By DON STINE
Some Neptune residents living near South Riverside Drive in the Shark River Hills section of Neptune may get what they have been asking for- a living shoreline along the Shark River instead of bulkheads.
An “armored dune” concept was presented to more than 100 people during a special meeting at the Shark River Hills Fire House July 25. The concept calls for a walkway along the existing grade next to the road, followed by a geotube core nearer to the water, followed by a marine mattress with marsh plantings at the water’s edge.
“The baseline will not move in a storm…and, ultimately, it becomes a living reef,” said Andrew Rella, an environmental and engineering consultant with Inter Tidal Habitat Consultant, based in Weehawken,
An ordinance putting funding in place for a $1.2 million project to install a bulkhead along sections of S. Riverside Dr. was recently tabled by the Neptune Township Committee. The ordinance would have approved accepting an $835,529 Federal Emergency Management Agency grant to pay for much of the project, with the remaining $346,245 funded through a bond ordinance. The project would cover 2,000 feet of shoreline from the Snake Hill area to the Shark River Yacht Club.
During a public hearing on the ordinance, area residents, including members of the Shark River Cleanup Coalition and the Property Owners Association, said a bulkhead would change the aesthetics and biology of the shoreline. Many said they use the area for boating, fishing and walking dogs and that a bulkhead would interfere with all of that. Others said that bulkheads are outdated concepts that can have a negative impact on the river’s ecosystem.
Many residents said they would like to see a living shoreline created instead of bulkheads.
A “living shoreline” is a term used to define a number of shoreline protection options that allow for natural coastal processes through the strategic placement of plants, stone, sand fill, and other structural and organic materials.
So, the governing body brought Rella on board to come up with an alternative proposal that may get approval from the state Department of Environmental Protection, which originally rejected the living shoreline concept.
Geotubes are a high-strength engineered textile that are fabricated into a large tube and filled with sand creating a stable structure that can withstand severe hydraulic forces. A marine mattress is a series of concrete-like blocks that form a bio-friendly mat in the water along the shoreline.
Rella said that the blocks are not made of concrete but a substance that is more environmentally friendly and will attract shellfish, barnacles, horseshoe crabs and fish, while still stabilizing the shoreline. He said the mats have been used successfully in other marine projects and the goal with this project will be to attract 12 to 15 marine species.
“I think this is a wonderful design,” said Jim Brown, who has lived along the Shark River since 1985.
Brown is a scientist, professor, and owner of an environmental company. He is also past assistant commissioner of health for the state Department of Health.
He said he is glad to see the Township Committee pull together by bringing Rella in and coming up with a better design that will maintain the river’s ecology.
“It’s a compromise but it is a good compromise,” he said.
But other residents questioned whether the project is even needed at all. Many cited occasional flooding problems but said that a living shoreline will not do much to protect properties during major storm events and that there is no need to initiate a huge project along the shoreline Other residents said they would like more input and information.
“I look at (the township’s flooding claims) and scratch my head- I don’t see it,” said resident Ray Dodd, who personally monitored 50 high-tide events at the river to gather data.
Most of the street flooding comes in through the storm drains, he said.
Township Administrator Vito Gadaleta said that special gates will be installed on the storm drains under the project to prevent this problem in the future.
“We will not satisfy those who want nothing done- we understand that,” he said.
He said the Township Committee will discuss reintroducing a revised ordinance at its Aug. 14 meeting, since the FEMA application has an upcoming deadline.
“We will move forward expeditiously on that,” he said.