Ocean City’s South End Next in Line for Flood Control

first_imgBy Donald WittkowskiOcean City is targeting a large swath of the southern tip of the barrier island as the next area for flood control.But residents were told they will have to be patient.At a town meeting Saturday organized by Fourth Ward Councilman Bob Barr, city officials repeatedly assured about 100 residents in attendance that protecting flood-prone neighborhoods in the south end remains a top priority.“We’re going to be taking a lot of votes on this and allocating a lot of money in the future,” Barr said of City Council’s commitment to flood-mitigation efforts.Barr and other city representatives met with residents during a nearly two-hour meeting to broadly outline preliminary plans to ease flooding in the south part of town from 36th Street to 59th Street.Eliciting disappointment from some of the residents, representatives of ACT Engineers Inc., a city consulting firm that will develop the flooding plan, declined to say when it might be completed. They stressed that they first want to talk to homeowners to get their ideas before proposing any specific flooding projects to protect the neighborhoods.“You don’t want us to come back here with some half-baked ideas that won’t work in the long run,” Carol Beske, the founder of ACT Engineers, said to the audience. “We don’t have a firm date today. We came to listen today.”From left, Councilman Bob Barr, Councilman Keith Hartzell and ACT Engineers Inc. executive Carol Beske address the audience at the Ocean City Free Public Library.One resident, Stan Pszczolkowski, of 53rd Street, pressed representatives of ACT Engineers for more details about the flooding plan.“Specifically, what are you going to give the city for the money we’re paying you?” Pszczolkowski asked.ACT officials said they hope to have a written report completed by the end of the year that will lay out the priorities for the flooding projects and how long they would likely take to build.Councilman Keith Hartzell explained that unlike building a house, there is no uniform blueprint that the city can follow to alleviate flooding in different parts of town. Asking for their patience, Hartzell told the residents that the city will approach the problem methodically to avoid mistakes.“In the past, we had a tendency to do a project in one area and create a calamity in another area,” Hartzell said.Hartzell, Barr and Beske emphasized the flood-control strategy will include both short term and longer-range projects that will be done in collaboration with the neighborhoods.“This is unprecedented,” Hartzell said of the city’s efforts to collect extensive feedback from residents. “This is a very, very valuable step here.”Beske said Ocean City will also need to partner with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the flooding plan.Vince Bekier, aide to Mayor Jay Gillian, led a delegation of officials from the city administration at the meeting. Bekier pledged the mayor’s support for flood-control projects in the south end. Councilman Antwan McClellan also attended the meeting.Local residents listen to the presentation on the city’s preliminary plan to alleviate flooding in the south end of town.The southern end of town includes the sprawling Fourth Ward represented by Barr. Looking to residents for help, city officials had Fourth Ward homeowners fill out questionnaires Saturday that will provide key information for the flooding plan.Although the plan is only in the preliminary stage, officials from ACT Engineers mentioned the possibility of building protective barriers known as berms, installing pumping stations and erecting floodgates as ways to prevent or reduce flooding.City officials pointed to a 2014 drainage project in the city’s Merion Park neighborhood as proof that roadway improvements and new pumping stations can reduce flooding.The city is in the midst of two other major flooding projects that will use a combination of road construction, new drainage improvements and pumping stations. The areas include the north end of town between First and Ninth streets and a flood-prone part of the city between 28th and 34th streets. The north end project costs $7.9 million, while work between 28th and 34th streets carries a $6.5 million price tag.Those projects may serve as models for the flood-mitigation strategy in the south end. At Saturday’s meeting, residents of the south end said there is no time to waste to tackle the flooding problems in their neighborhoods.Ocean Aire Condominium owner Linda Shaneor, holding microphone, believes that flooding in the south end is an urgent problem.About 20 residents of the Ocean Aire Condominiums at 43rd Street and West Avenue attended the meeting to underscore their frustration with storm water and tidal surge coming from the adjacent marshlands and bay.“It is urgent. This is not something we can have for another six months,” Linda Shaneor, a resident of Ocean Aire, said in an interview after the meeting.Shaneor said flooding is so bad at times that it is nearly as high as the windows on her first-floor condo. She added that Ocean Aire residents are afraid to park their cars at the back of the building because of the flooding.“The water has just poured in from the bay,” Shaneor said.Steve Sinibaldi, another Ocean Aire resident, blamed the flooding on a gap underneath some abandoned railroad tracks that cross the marshlands behind the condos. He said the gap was created when a pipe under the tracks was either removed or was dislodged during the storms.“This is the culprit,” he said, pointing to the gap during an interview after the town meeting. “This has washed out completely and has hammered us.”Sinibaldi, a summer resident of Ocean City, is a retired assistant director of Public Works in Haverford, Pa. Based on his experience with Public Works projects, he believes the gap can be easily repaired and is urging the city to take quick action.Ocean Aire Condominium owner Steve Sinibaldi points out a gap underneath an abandoned railroad track that he blames for flooding that spills out of the marshlands behind the condo complex.Barr, meanwhile, noted that the flooding plan for the south end will be particularly challenging because of how large the area is between 36th and 59th streets. He promised that the city will keep residents in the loop with regular updates.“We’ll be back as soon as we’re ready,” he said. Residents look at aerial photos and renderings of drainage improvements in Ocean City to ease flooding.last_img