• January 20, 2020

Two Strathmere bulkheads to be replaced in 2020 - Ocean City Sentinel: News

Two Strathmere bulkheads to be replaced in 2020

New, taller standards on barrier island section

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Posted: Wednesday, January 15, 2020 11:17 am

STRATHMERE — Two bulkheads on bayside street ends will be replaced this year, the latest to be built to meet new standards calling for taller bulkheads in the barrier island section of the township. 

The bulkheads at Putnam Avenue and Sumner Avenue are due to be replaced under a $234,800 contract with Arthur Henry approved by Township Committee in December. 

The contractor has about a month to get the material together, with work to start this winter and expected to be completed by March. 

In December 2018, Township Committee approved new rules for bulkheads in Strathmere, increasing the minimum height from seven feet to eight feet. But the rules will take a long time to go into effect. 

The township decided to give homeowners 10 years to meet the new requirements. 

“I think the committee realized it’s not an inexpensive endeavor to replace a bulkhead,” township engineer Paul Dietrich said in a recent interview. “People need to plan on that in their finances.” 

A bulkhead may cost $50,000 to $100,000 for a private homeowner, he said. Over the next decade, he said, it will be time to replace many of the shorter bulkheads, and for those that have been more recently installed, there will be a chance for homeowners to find options to increase the height of the current bulkhead, including through top caps that would extend the height. 

“I think the committee understands that but has to balance the economic concerns with public safety issues and flood sustainability issues,” Dietrich said. 

The ordinance was under discussion for about a year before committee took action. That included public meetings held in Strathmere to discuss the proposal. 

According to Dietrich, when the ordinance was first under consideration there were some bulkheads along the bay that were in the range of 3 to 4 feet high. Most are now in the 5-foot to 7-foot range, he said. 

In early public comments, he told committee members that some Strathmere property owners were convinced to exceed the current standards and meet the higher requirements before the ordinance took effect when replacing their bulkheads in 2018.

Because the tidal water in the bay is constantly changing, the height of the bulkhead is measured against what’s known as the North American Vertical Datum of 1988, which was created to define a standard reference point based on the median sea level. 

Even before the new ordinance was approved, the township has been replacing bulkheads on street ends throughout the Strathmere section. In both cases, the bulkheads needed attention regardless of the change in the height requirement. 

“These weren’t just to raise them. The Putnam Avenue bulkhead was starting to become in bad shape,” he said. 

On Sumner Avenue, the channel in the bay has moved, scouring material from in front of the bulkhead, Dietrich said. Over time, that could lead to instability. 

In 2018, committee members approved a $3.24 million bond ordinance to fund several projects, including improvements to township-owned bulkheads at Sumner and Putnam avenues. Before that vote, officials replaced other township-owned bulkheads in the community at higher than 8 feet, including the bulkhead at the playground on Bayview Drive at Webster Avenue.

According to Dietrich, the taller bulkheads could reduce the chance of water washing into the area during a severe coastal storm similar to Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

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