WEST LONG BRANCH, NJ- A quick drive down the coastline of Monmouth County will prove to be more of an eyesore than a scenic ocean view. What used to be a site of beautiful sandy beaches is now a display of orange fences, massive pipelines and enormous bulldozers. This is the scene on many Monmouth County beaches that are a part of the beach replenishment project that is currently being carried out by the U.S Army Corps of Engineers.
Beach replenishment is a process that has been happening on the coasts of the United States for over 90 years. The process is put in place to protect the shorelines from eroding. Sand is pumped onto the shoreline and below the water line to create wide dune to shoreline beaches with no sandbars. This process is costly; since the 1990s the U.S Army Corp of Engineers have spent $209 million on beach replenishment projects in New Jersey alone.
Critics of beach replenishment see the process as a quick fix that only mitigates the effects of erosion for a limited time. With no sandbars, the energy of waves is directly expelled on the shoreline, causing erosion to occur at an unnatural rate. This causes a never-ending cycle of erosion followed by beach replenishment.
Many local residents aren’t just upset about the aesthetic disadvantages, they are concerned about the environmental impact beach replenishment will cause. Local Allenhurst resident Berge Parigian says, “Beach replenishment is a transformation that will destroy great surf and flourishing marine habitats”.
Environmental consultant and field staff scientist, Ben Gresh has spent his summers on the Jersey Shore his entire life. He says, “Beach replenishment is a process that is often met with opposition and what works for one town often doesn’t work for another. On one hand it does harm marine life, but what many people fail to remember is that a lot of these problems occur because of homes being built too close to the ocean. It’s quick fix but also the lesser of two evils because it let’s people still live so close to the beach”.
Although beach replenishment projects are a popular fix to eroding beaches on the east coast, not all communities are using this method. This winter New York City took to dumping old subway cars into the Atlantic Ocean. The subway cars replaced the eroding reefs and helped create equilibrium between the force of waves and shorelines. The subway cars also made a positive impact on marine life and became the new home of various marine species that colonized the subway cars.
Despite local opposition, the beach replenishment project will continue in New Jersey.