MIDDLETOWN – The second and third phases of the $115 million Port Monmouth Flood Control Project are underway and have an anticipated completion date of December 2022.
The 100 percent federally funded initiative that will help prevent flooding in the Port Monmouth section of Middletown began after 750 homes were reported to have been damaged or destroyed during superstorm Sandy in October 2012.
Port Monmouth neighbors the Sandy Hook Bay waterfront, Pews Creek and Compton Creek. The area is situated at a low elevation level and is affected by tidal flooding from the bodies of water in the area.
On Nov. 5, dozens of residents attended an information session that was held so officials could dispel rumors pertaining to the construction and performance of the flood control project. The session was led by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and held at VFW Post 2179 in Port Monmouth.
Mayor Kevin Settembrino said money to fund a flood control project was allocated for more than 20 years, prior to Middletown receiving federal funding. He said money was set aside each year by the township, but officials could not cover what was expected to be a large sum of money.
The construction of the project was authorized in 2000.
“If anything good came out of superstorm Sandy, it was the fact that after that storm occurred, all of these flood control projects became fully funded,” Settembrino said.
Phase one, which cost $18 million, included a beach extension with 15-foot sand dunes acting as soft barricades, a pier extension and the construction of a groyne – a structure built from an ocean shore to interrupt water flow, according to Debbie Vogel, a representative from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
Project manager Dave Gentile said phase two will include the construction of a tide gate, two pump stations, levees, floodwalls, road closure structures, interior drainage structures and mitigation.
“For the project to get all of its benefits, you need a complete line of protection,” Gentile said. “Having some (protection) might provide smaller benefits, but with a storm such as Sandy, the water will just wrap its way around and (the barriers) will not function as designed.”
Gentile said the construction of pump stations – structures that move water from one area to another – will “handle the interior drainage and rainwater.” The structures are proposed for construction on Pews Creek and Compton Creek, he said.
The pump station on Compton Creek, near Main Street, will be constructed near the site of one of the proposed flood banks, or levees. The impermeable levees would deter water from overflowing in the event of heavy rainfall or a severe storm, Gentile said.
“You can fill a swimming pool in a few seconds, that is the amount of water that will be moved,” Gentile said “… If the pump stations pumps, the water will get sucked into those inlets and water then gets discharged to the unprotected side of the project.”
A low-maintenance lift gate is under construction on Pews Creek. The gate will deter tidal flooding in the upper section of Port Monmouth, Gentile said.
Gentile said road closure structures will be placed on Old Port Monmouth Road, Broadway and Campbell Avenue in the case of a storm or severe weather that would cause bodies of water to overflow.
Gentile said Route 36 will be elevated next summer, but did not provide further details on what the process of elevating the highway would entail.
A floodwall is under construction and near completion, while two other floodwalls are scheduled for construction in the near future. Gentile said the first floodwall has an underground base that reaches 85 feet to 115 feet below the ground and is situated near Sandy Hook Bay.
“What you see coming out of the ground may not look impressive, but in order to hold back the force of the ocean you have a very strong foundation,” Gentile said.
Township Administrator Tony Mercantante, who spoke after Gentile’s presentation, said the next phase following the design completion of levees and floodwalls would be to reach out to property owners who reside near the site of a proposed floodwall or levee.
Mercantante said portions of residential and commercial properties will need to be acquired for the construction of a floodwall or levee to proceed.
“We have to do an appraisal of each (property). We have to do a survey to show the property owners the exact footprint of either the levee or the floodwall on their property. We have to negotiate acquiring an easement or the property itself,” Mercantante said.
During public comment, several residents expressed concern with the projected completion date of 2022 and asked why officials waited until the project was halfway complete to attempt to acquire property from individual owners.
Residents who said they were told the project would be complete in 2018 expressed apprehension regarding the extended time frame.
Gentile said the time frame was delayed due to design issues and said the time it takes to acquire contracts and easements could be lengthy. He said contracts for the remaining part of the project have not yet been bid on.
Joe Daly, of Monmouth Avenue, used the phrase “nuisance flooding” to describe the problem he and his neighbors face when overflowing water disrupts their quality of life.
“Tonight, I could not get home to have dinner because I could not drive down my street,” Daly said. “I want to know at what tide level these gates are going to close and is this going to prevent the nuisance flooding in our streets?
Gentile said, “When the project is complete, it will help some of the nuisance flooding.”
Township Engineer Ted Mahoney added, “Before (water) comes out to the road level, (the water) is going to be pumped out into the bay.”
One resident said Wilson, Monmouth and Brainard avenues were under water that evening, when it was raining, which reinforced the assertions other residents made regarding the extended time frame of the project.
Resident Kathy Rogers, who sought to reassure her fellow residents, said, “Let me just settle all you people down a bit. I have lived in this town for 78 years. I have watched flooding year after year … Every year we fought for (flood prevention) since 1980.
“… We fought for this project and I know you are upset it’s going to take a lot longer and I know there is some local flooding you have to deal with, but we have dealt with that since the 1980s. This project, when it is finished, will help you. Please be patient,” she said.
Rogers received a round of applause from the other residents who were in attendance.