By MADDY VITALE
It is expected to stretch two blocks long, will look like a huge sock and will be filled with sand.
What is it?
Ocean City plans to bury another giant geotube in the dunes to protect the shoreline. Geotubes previously worked well in protecting other vulnerable spots in Ocean City’s beaches, including Waverly Beach along East Atlantic Boulevard.
Now, the city wants to put a geotube in another area suffering from erosion – between Fourth and Fifth streets.
“They basically work like a bulkhead – except bigger and stronger, and filled with sand native to the surrounding beach,” explained Ocean City Public Information Officer Doug Bergen on Wednesday.
Mayor Jay Gillian said in his Mayor’s Message on Oct. 25 that during a City Council meeting the night before, Council members approved a bond ordinance that includes potential funding for the installation of geotubes on the eroded beach in the area surrounding Fifth Street.
“I have instructed the city team to work with the Army Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Environmental Protection to see if it’s possible to use this technology there,” Gillian said in his message. “Geotubes are giant cylinders made of plastic fabric and stuffed with sand, then buried by more sand and dune grass.”
He also described how well the geotubes work under the dunes along East Atlantic Boulevard.
“They were the only thing that saved many north-end properties during Superstorm Sandy in 2012,” he said.
At the Oct. 24 City Council meeting, Chief Financial Officer Frank Donato told the Council members that the city wants to piggyback on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ beach replenishment project to install a large geotube that would help protect the shoreline between the areas of Fourth and Fifth streets.
Ocean City, Sea Isle City and Strathmere are part of a $32.5 million Army Corps of Engineers beach replenishment project that will deposit a total of 2.4 million cubic yards of fresh sand along the eroded shoreline of all three towns.
The project is expected to get underway this fall and be completed in time for the 2020 summer tourism season.
The bond ordinance that was approved for a series of public improvements in Ocean City includes $3 million to help the city pay for its share of the beach replenishment project. Some of that funding would go to the proposed geotubes.
“The scope, cost and timing of any potential project is entirely contingent on acquiring federal and state permits. But Frank (Donato) designated $1 million in the pending bond ordinance for geotubes in the area near Fourth Street and Fifth Street,” Bergen noted.
When asked why there are certain areas of the city’s beaches that get hit the hardest from storms, resulting in dramatic erosion compared to other beaches, Bergen pointed out that it has a lot to do with the shape of the island.
“The beach in the blocks around Fifth Street is the most exposed to waves and currents,” he said. “It’s no coincidence that the same stretch is home to some of the best surf in Ocean City.”
The results of using a geotube at the Waverly beach were positive, Bergen said.
In one of the photos provided by Bergen from Oct. 30, 2012, the morning after Superstorm Sandy, it shows the Oct. 29, 2012, storm flattened the dune at Waverly Beach along East Atlantic Boulevard.
“The geotube was the only thing holding back the ocean,” Bergen pointed out. “The geotubes definitely saved a good bit of north-end property.”
Since then, the shoreline there has dramatically improved.
“At Waverly, the dunes and beach have grown substantially over time, and the geotubes have not been exposed since Sandy,” Bergen said. “But it’s nice to know they’re there as an insurance policy. The city would hope for the same at Fifth Street.”