MAURICE RIVER TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey environmental officials are moving to protect a lighthouse on Delaware Bay considered one of the most vulnerable in the nation to rising seas and storm surges. The Department of Environmental Protection said Friday it will begin next week to protect the East Point Lighthouse with giant sand-filled synthetic fabric tubes meant to temporarily keep the waves and tides at bay until a long-term solution can be found.
The project will cost more than $460,000 at the lighthouse in Maurice River Township in Cumberland County, using a grant from the National Parks Service.
“This project will provide protection while long-term solutions are evaluated and developed to protect the East Point Lighthouse from storms and sea level rise,” said DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe. “We continue to work closely with local officials, the state legislative delegation and the Maurice River Township Historical Society on developing a long-term plan to protect this iconic beacon that stands as a symbol for the Delaware Bay region and its rich maritime heritage.”
The two-story brick lighthouse was built in 1849 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
It sits just 90 feet from the mean high-water mark, but during storms the surf pounds against an earthen wall just 10 yards from the lighthouse’s front steps.
The lighthouse is already on the highest spit of land around — only a few inches above sea level — so moving it is not an option. Nor is constantly dumping more sand in front of it.
State officials and preservationists say even a moderate-term fix is likely to cost $3 million or more. State and local governments routinely shore up the perimeter of the lighthouse property with 3,000-pound sandbags and hastily bulldozed earthen walls.
The work beginning next week will include the placement of a sand-filled “geotube” at the water’s edge. Such sand-filled synthetic membranes have been used elsewhere along the New Jersey shore and around the country to provide temporary stabilization for erosion-prone shorelines.
Nancy Patterson, president of the Maurice River Historical Society, has said she favors some sort of bulkhead or hard barrier erected between the lighthouse and the bay. But experience has shown that hard structures like barriers and rock walls tend to accelerate beach erosion.
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