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Good News for New Jersey’s Beaches

Beach erosion along the New Jersey coast is an ongoing battle. Fortunately, mother nature and the federal government have been conspiring to help NJ win the war.

Beach Erosion
(Mark Kolbe, Getty Images)

Stuart Farell, director of the Coastal Research Institute at Richard Stockton University said high tides this past week are being pinned on astronomy and the moon being as close to earth as it gets, and in perfect alignment with the sun. Farell says erosion has been mild ever since 2012 and the federal government has had something to do with that.

“The Army Corps of Engineers has been heavily involved and literally placed tens of millions of yards of sand on the beach following hurricane Sandy,” Farell said.

He said the Army Corps of Engineers essentially manages at least 80 percent of the developed New Jersey Coastline, and it has extended its work to cover several new places, which are being worked on at the present time.

Farell says the beach configuration at any one time, is the sum of all of several moving parts: the tides, the storm waves versus calm waves, the currents parallel to the shoreline. All of those elements control the equilibrium of a beach condition. And in a storm situation, he says that you have a wide, flat, low-gradient beach. Under calm weather conditions, you have a fairly steep, dry beach which goes rather rapidly into the water. Common terms for them are the winter beach versus the summer beach.

According to Farell, recent rip current activity at the shore is more about strong northeasterly wave action. He calls rip currents, “an everyday event.”

“You can have rip currents on nice sunny days. It doesn’t matter. That is just a fact that the waves coming in, when they break, they pile water up against the shoreline,” Farell said, adding that the water then has to go somewhere, so normally, it will just flow out uniformly across the beach and nobody will notice.

Sometimes, though, the water flows into certain areas, rather than in a uniform fashion.

“In other words, nothing much happens for 500 or 600 feet of beach, and then there is a point where the water concentrates and flows out in a streamlike fashion out to sea. And that is a rip current,” he said.

According to Stuart Farell, beach erosion has also been mild because of the quiet Atlantic hurricane season this year. He says erosion has not yet become a problem.

“This kind of damage we see today, if the wind turns around to the southwest or southeast, the beach sand that was carried offshore will return rather readily, absent another event,” he said.

Farell added that since hurricane Sandy, we have had a pretty mellow run of it in terms of subsequent storm damage.


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