A temporary sea wall installed along Route 35 where Superstorm Sandy broke through to Barnegat Bay in Mantoloking is being taken down now so oceanfront property owners can access their property, according to the state Department of Transportation.
Construction of a permanent $40 million wall is expected to start early next year and be completed by the beginning of summer and there are also plans for beach replenishment and dune construction throughout the Sandy-ravaged stretch of beach to start possibly next summer, according to state officials.
Bids to construct the permanent wall of steel sheet piling are expected to go out this month, said Larry Ragonese, spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection.
On Tuesday afternoon, contractors hired by the state Department of Transportation (DOT) were removing vertical slats from the temporary wall that was constructed less than two weeks after Sandy.
The removal began Monday and is expected to be completed by the end of the week, according to Timothy Greeley, DOT spokesman. The DOT is the lead agency on the removal process because it took the lead in the installation of the temporary wall along the state-owned highway just after Sandy struck.
When asked why the temporary wall is being dismantled before bids have even gone out for the permanent structure, Greeley said the removal is at the request of oceanfront property owners who have the right to get on their property and that the underground portion of the temporary wall will still be in place to help stabilize the beach.
On Tuesday, one of the crew members working for the contractor was using a welding tool on pieces of the wall just before a crane removed the next piece. DOT staff members were supervising the work being done by Ferreira Construction Co. Inc. of Readington, NJ. Some of the wall had already been dismantled.
The work was being done just west of wide, open swaths of sand where houses stood before Sandy barreled through on Oct. 29, 2012.
Greeley said in an email, "When DOT and our contractors worked around the clock to repair the main breach of Route 35 at Herbert Street/Route 528 in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, we drove steel sheeting for a length of around 600 feet along the state-owned right of way between the highway and the private properties to the east of Route 35 (beachfront).
"This steel sheeting was driven 40 feet below the ground with approximately 7 feet of sheeting left exposed (above ground)" which is the temporary wall now being dismantled, he said.
The Army Corps of Engineers was "instrumental in aiding us with the repair and reconstruction of that breach back in late 2012," Greeley said.
"We have a contractor out there this week cutting down the exposed portion of the steel sheeting - to approximately three feet below ground level and removing some temporary guide rail to enable access to the private properties located east of Route 35.
"The underground portion of the sheeting will remain in place permanently to protect and stabilize the highway at this location. There was no steel sheeting in place along Route 35 prior to Sandy," Greeley said.
Chris Nelson, who had been Mantoloking's special counsel for Sandy-related matters since the storm until recently, said on Wednesday afternoon that the beach, all privately-owned, now has a "dune" 16 feet above sea level that will also help protect property west of the beach if there are storms this month or next year until the new wall is in place.
He said the town's Public Works Department has been diligently "pushing sand" to keep the dune at its current height as plans move forward for the more permanent work.
He said six oceanfront property owners in Mantoloking are still refusing to sign easements for the Army Corps project to be done in front of their property.
"We'll use eminent domain, we'll litigate and the Army Corps will put sand in front of their homes," Nelson said.
Patch asked Nelson how the Army Corps and the state will be able to work on the permanent wall, beach replenishment and dune construction if private property owners are calling for full access to their properties for their own construction and renovation work.
"They won't be in the way," Nelson said. "The sea wall will be east of the private owners' building envelope. They (the Army Corps) can do most of the work on the beach side, not on the private owners' buildable property."
Ragonese said the permanent wall will run about four miles, including the length of Mantoloking and into part of the Brick beach. The federal Highway Administration will pay for 80 percent of the cost, the state will pay for the balance and the two towns are responsible only for ensuring the wall stays covered with sand.
The steel wall will extend reach 32 feet below the ground, Ragonese said, adding it may rise about 16 feet above ground level, but that is still being determined.
Nelson said that because he won election last month to a seat on Mantoloking's Borough Council, he is no longer getting paid as special counsel, but is still helping with some of that work, overseeing plans to recover and rebuilt in Sandy's aftermath.
Nelson said the dune that was about 21 to 22 feet high in Mantoloking prior to Sandy will again be in place when the projects are completed. Moreover, the beach of only 100 feet will be much wider, correcting the serious flaw that led to Sandy cutting a channel across the island from the ocean to the bay and sending flood waters surging through Brick and Point Pleasant Borough.
"We've learned our lesson and we want to make sure that never happens again," Nelson said.
To see photos of flooded base of the Mantoloking bridge just after Sandy and the progress of the temporary sea wall installation on the DOT website, click here.
Story originally posted the afternoon of Dec. 4.