2001-04-14 / Front Page

Rockaway Beaches: Dredged Today, Gone Tomorrow

Rockaway Beaches: Dredged Today, Gone Tomorrow

A 6-foot drop-off at Beach 100 Street gives a new look to Rockaway Beach.A 6-foot drop-off at Beach 100 Street gives a new look to Rockaway Beach.

By Aaron Zeidman

On his way to work on Monday morning, April 9, a wave reporter paid a visit to two different points on the Rockaway Peninsula: the beach at Fort Tilden and the beach at Beach 100 street.

In both places the ocean was blue, the morning sun was warm and the air smelled of spring. But, as regards the beach, there was a crucial difference between the two locations.

At Beach 100 street, stretching about twenty blocks in either direction, there is a six to seven foot vertical drop on the beach about halfway between the boardwalk and the water. This makes access to and from the ocean almost impossible. There is no such erosion problem at the Fort Tilden beach.

For many Rockaway residents, this drop-off is not only an inconvenience, but it poses a serious threat to summer tourism. In addition, it may indicate a problem in the way state and federal governments are addressing the problem of beach erosion.

William Van Terpol, of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is the Project Engineer for what is called the East Rockaway Inlet Project. According to Van Terpol, the project is a "beach nourishment" project, intended to combat natural beach erosion. The project covers two areas: Rockaway Beach between Beach 27 and Beach 35 street and from Beach 60 to Beach 118 street.

The beach is nourished or replenished with sand that is dredged up from the ocean floor about a mile and a half out from shore. The sand is deposited on the beach. Then bulldozers and other machines level out the sand. Estimated cost for the project is $5.7 million for the area between Beach 60 and Beach 118 street alone.

Although this is a great expense, beach erosion is a major concern of the Rockaway community. According to the experts, it is the ineffectuality of the project that makes the expense seem extraordinary. The project was finished in February of this year. After just two months and two minor storms, approximately half the sand has washed away, leaving behind the inconvenient drop-off.

Since the project is funded by federal, state, and local money, ineffective beach nourishment presents a serious problem to taxpayers. 5.7 million dollars worth of problems.

Joe Bonkowski, Department of Parks Manager for Rockaway Beach, said that the beach will be leveled out well in advance of the summer season. Those worried about a decline in tourism can rest easy. But re-leveling the beach means more expense to taxpayers and the sand that has washed away isn’t going to come back.

Bonkowski said that the Parks Department had very little to do with how the project was handled. He added that the placement of rock jetties in Long Beach, Rockaway, and Fort Tilden have had great success in preventing erosion.

"Beaches are essentially man-made," said Bonkowski, "and they need to be replenished." But the rate of beach erosion is something that may be reduced.

This past week, President Bush proposed a budget that would cut beach replenishment funding to the Rockaways by 50 percent. Wasteful replenishment projects can no longer be afforded. Experts say that it is time to look for long-term solutions to the problem of beach erosion, or at the very least, to explore some more lasting alternatives.

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