By DON STINE
Neptune officials scrapped plans this week to create a living shoreline on the Shark River, along South Riverside Drive, in the township’s Shark River Hills area and will instead focus to improve infrastructure in the same area.
An ordinance putting funding in place for a $1.2 million project to install a living shoreline along sections of S. Riverside Dr. was” tabled indefinitely” at the Aug. 28 Township Committee meeting. 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.
The original ordinance would approve accepting an $835,529 Federal Emergency Management Agency grant to pay for much of the living shoreline project, with the remaining $346,245 funded through a bond ordinance. The project would protect 2,000 feet of shoreline from the Snake Hill area to the Shark River Yacht Club.
The entire issue had been a bone of contention among Shark River Hills residents, some supporting a living shoreline, other saying that the shoreline should be left alone, with others supporting metal bulkheads along the river, which was the original plan presented by the governing body. The township is also concerned about preserving the safety of utilities in the area, like sewer lines
In an Aug. 24 press release, township officials announced they will request a project modification from FEMA. Under this request, the township will seek to only include the repair and reconstruction of the storm water inlets and outfall pipes, and the installation of tideflex valves, which prevent tidal water from entering storm water inlets.
According to the press release, township officials will, in order to best protect critical road, sewer and utility infrastructure, request to leave open the possibility of obtaining federal funding to complete other phases of the project at a future date.
“Mayor Brantley and the Township Committee take the concerns of our residents very seriously and value their input. At their direction, I will continue discussions with FEMA to determine how we can best pursue this critical project without unduly disrupting the Shark River Hills neighborhood,” Township Business Administrator Vito Gadaleta said.
“Ultimately, their role, as well as mine, is to protect the entirety of Neptune Township and that is the outcome we will continue to seek through this process,” he said.
Residents seemed to be mostly pleased with the new solution for the shoreline but not everyone agreed, with some calling the project “totally useless” and with “no sense” with others praising it for “preserving the natural environment” and being a “prudent approach” to the flooding problem.
In a related move, the Township Committee adopted an ordinance appropriating $1,280,000 to acquire a large, vacant tract on South Riverside Drive using $960,000 in state Green Acres funding, $127,500 in Monmouth Conservation Funds, with the remaining $192,000 to be bonded.
Gadaleta said the site is the last open space on the Shark River in Neptune and could be developed with up to nine houses that would be in the river’s flood zone.
“We are saving it from development,” he said.