Home > Uncategorized > The Dr. Strangelove of Beach Replenishment and Fear of “Retreat”

The Dr. Strangelove of Beach Replenishment and Fear of “Retreat”

It’s Groundhog Day at the Jersey Shore

Still Crazy After All These Years

My opinion is to think regional, and think big. … Clearing the barrier island of people will never be realized even if a major storm did 100 million dollars in damage each and every year.  ~~~ Dr. Stewart C. Farrell, Stockton State College (1980)

This week’s testimony on a Sandy recovery legislative agenda sent me digging into the history of the 1980 NJ Shore Protection Master Plan. 

(BTW, Huffington Post first wrote about the history and that Plan in their superb November 2012 investigative piece:  Hurricane Sandy Damage Amplified By Breakneck Development Of Coast:

The intensity of development along the coast clearly influenced the scale of the disaster, said Bill Wolfe, a former analyst for the state’s Department of Environmental Protection who now leads the watchdog group New Jersey Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

“There needs to be an acknowledgement that we can’t keep on doing what we’ve done in the past,” Wolfe said. “We have to face up to the problem.”

Some are calling for minor updates of that 1980 Plan as the Sandy reform vehicle. Senator Van Drew (D-Cape May) has introduced a bill to do that, see: S2575

In my testimony, I cited the huge expansion in scientific knowledge and relevant legislative findings from the 1973 Coastal Area Facility Review Act (CAFRA) to urge the legislature to mandate that climate change, greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, and adaptation be foundational elements and the highest priority in any reform agenda.

Ideally, the climate and adaptation and land use regional planning work would best be done and implemented via creation of a Coastal Commission – but it could be accomplished by integrating the science into a beefed up DEP CAFRA program, all tied to implementing these 1973 CAFRA legislative findings::

therefore, it is in the interest of the people of the State that all of the coastal area should be dedicated to those kinds of land uses which promote the public health, safety and welfare, protect public and private property, and are reasonably consistent and compatible with the natural laws governing the physical, chemical and biological environment of the coastal area. […]

The Legislature further recognizes the legitimate economic aspirations of the inhabitants of the coastal area and wishes to encourage the development of compatible land uses in order to improve the overall economic position of the inhabitants of that area within the framework of a comprehensive environmental design strategy which preserves the most ecologically sensitive and fragile area from inappropriate development and provides adequate environmental safeguards for the construction of any developments in the coastal area.

Needless to say, long story short, 40 years after passage of CAFRA, DEP never developed that “comprehensive environmental design strategy” or “preserve[d] the most ecologically sensitive and fragile area from inappropriate development”.

CAFRA devolved into a site specific permit program with no overarching vision or binding regional plan (despite the “cumulative impact” and “impairment” standards in the original 1973 CAFRA statute, which could have provided a legal basis to say “NO” to over-development).

So, here we are.

I’ll be writing much more on all that, but for now, I thought I’d share these gems – I just couldn’t help myself.


An idea: Design and build a large capacity, seagoing dredge capable of excavating and pumping to a fixed, permanent discharge pipeline on land 2500 cubic yards of sand per hour.

The dredge, permanently assigned to New Jersey, would be responsible for navigational dredging of inlets discharging sediment to the land based system near the inlet.

Example – Manasquan, Shark River, Absecon Inlets.

In addition this vessel could also go to designated offshore sediment sources and using either permanent, sub-bottom discharge lines at a large deposit site or temporary lines, transfer sand to the nearest on-shore distribution systems.

My opinion is to think regional, and think big. Fixed structures and barriers have not solved the problem – and – more of them will not cost any less than the above plan. Clearing the barrier island of people will never be realized even if a major storm did 100 million dollars in damage each and every year. 

This concept of high capacity modern dredges seems to work for the German North Sea-facing barrier islands. I would propose a serious design and implementation study of such a concept on New Jersey’s coast. (Dr. Stewart C. Farrell, Stockton State College).


A system of fixed pumping plants and permanent pipelines has been considered in Appendix F of the Draft Master Plan (see Volume 2, Chapter Vlll), The piped system proves to be about 2.3 times as costly as a conventional nourishment scheme using offshore sources over a 50-year project life. 

Your comments regarding a large capacity dredge permanently assigned to New Jersey are noted. A detailed assessment of the costs of such a program would be needed to compare its feasibility to that of contracted dredging on an as needed, project specific basis. Also, the State’s taxpayers would have to be willing to commit to a long-term capital intensive shore protection program. 

That “Big Idea” was proposed by Dr. Farrell back in 1980. (read the URL on that link, and anticipate our next post!) 

So, catching up to that huge increase in scientific knowledge I cited previously, let’s fast forward 32 years to November 5, 2012, where that paper of record, the NY Times informs us: ( see: Costs of Shoring Up Coastal Communities)

But even as these towns clamor for sand, scientists are warning that rising seas will make maintaining artificial beaches prohibitively expensive or simply impossible. Even some advocates of artificial beach nourishment now urge new approaches to the issue, especially in New Jersey.

The practice has long been controversial.

Opponents of beach nourishment argue that undeveloped beaches deal well with storms. Their sands shift; barrier islands may even migrate toward the mainland. But the beach itself survives, because buildings and roads do not pin it down.

By contrast, replenishment projects often wash away far sooner than expected. The critics say the best answer to coastal storms is to move people and buildings away from the water, a tactic some call strategic retreat.

Supporters of these projects counter that beaches are infrastructure — just like roads, bridges and sewer systems — that must be maintained. They say beaches attract tourists and summer residents, conferring immense economic benefits that more than outweigh the costs of the projects. Also, they argue, these beaches absorb storm energy, sparing buildings inland.

New Jersey has embraced this approach with gusto. Stewart C. Farrell, a professor of marine geology at Stockton College of New Jersey, said that since 1985 80 million cubic yards of sand had been applied on 54 of the state’s 97 miles of developed coastline: a truckload of sand for every foot of beach. […]

But as the climate warms, sea levels are rising and bad storms may come more frequently. And New Jersey is particularly vulnerable because of tectonic forces and changes in ocean currents. …

We cannot sustain the shoreline in the future as we have in the past,” said Mr. Williams, of the Geological Survey. “Particularly from a beach nourishment standpoint.


Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
You must be logged in to post a comment.