State of the Beach/State Reports/NJ/Beach Erosion

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New Jersey Ratings
Indicator Type Information Status
Beach Access84
Water Quality78
Beach Erosion8-
Erosion Response-4
Beach Fill8-
Shoreline Structures8 2
Beach Ecology3-
Surfing Areas35
Coastal Development{{{19}}}{{{20}}}
Sea Level Rise{{{21}}}{{{22}}}

Erosion Data

26% of New Jersey's shoreline is critically eroding, according to the report "State Coastal Program Effectiveness in Protecting Natural Beaches, Dunes, Bluffs, and Rock Shores" (T. Bernd-Cohen and M. Gordon), Coastal Management 27:187-217, 1999. A report called “Coastal Hazard Management Plan for New Jersey” states that 82% of the state's 127-mile-long coastline is “critically eroding.”

Through a contract with the Richard Stockton College Coastal Research Center (CRC), the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) obtains dune, beach and nearshore profile data at 120 locations along the New Jersey shore in the spring and fall of each year. The New Jersey Beach Profile Network (NJBPN) monitoring locations extend from Aberdeen on Raritan Bay in the north, down to Cape May Point at the south, and around into Delaware Bay up to Reeds Beach. These survey data include cross-sectional profiles and quantitative measurements of volumetric changes along the profiles over time, dating back to 1986. Data is available from the Stockton Coastal Research Center NJBPN Website.

NJDEP provides storm surveys on a regular basis. The reports describe the current erosion situations along the shoreline. The most recent storm report is for Hurricane Irene August 29, 2011. The reports are available at:

Following is text from the Executive Summary of the 2006 20-year report on the CRC Website. There are now over 20 annual reports, plus the 20-year (2006) and 25-year (2011) summary reports that are posted on the Website.

In 1986 the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) authorized the formation of the New Jersey Beach Profile Network (NJBPN). This report summarizes the two decades of changes to each of the four coastal counties in New Jersey with the goal to provide a document that gives a thorough overview with enough detail that the reader can understand the nature and trends seen since 1986. These observations on beach changes along the New Jersey coastline provide a means to determine both rapid seasonal changes and follow long-term trends in shoreline position or beach volume. The 100 sites extend from the lower Raritan Bay, along the four-oceanfront county shorelines and into Delaware Bay along the western shoreline of Cape May County.

Previous reports focused on the recent changes as told by the last four surveys at each of the 100 locations. The graphics and text displayed and discussed the seasonal and year to year changes observed since the previous report. This pattern of data presentation is followed on the Website as well. To celebrate twenty years of research, the CRC has generated graphics intended to focus attention on the trends detected in beach sand volume and shoreline position. These trends are then grouped into averages for each county to show rather dramatically the impact of three significant causes for change.

  • The enormous positive impact of beach nourishment over the past 15 years.
  • The beneficial results of the low incidence of serious storm events impacting the NJ coast.
  • The enhanced shoreline protection benefits of 20 years of dune growth in height and width.

Far and away the most impressive change seen along the NJ shoreline has been the construction of the New York District Corps of Engineers Monmouth County Storm Protection Project. Twenty one miles of beaches had between 210 and 350 cubic yards of sand pumped from offshore sources onto each foot of beachfront. The cost of $210,000,000 was spread between 1994 and 2000 with only one renourishment completed in 2002 along the Sea Bright region, to address local erosional “hot spots”. The entire Monmouth County shoreline was not completed due to real estate and access issues arising from private ownership of the beach between Elberon, Deal and Allenhurst. The CRC program followed sand movement within and from the project beaches and has determined that the vast majority of the sand (over 17,000,000 cubic yards) remain in place as of the fall of 2006. Losses were documented at the ends of the project where sand moved north into the Sandy Hook National Seashore; south from the southern end of Long Branch, but little sand left Asbury Park to the north into Allenhurst or Deal. Manasquan Inlet dredging frequency and volume increased substantially due to the huge increase in sand volume present north of the inlet, but the dredged material is returned to the Manasquan shoreline as a matter of best practice. The research has shattered the shrill advance condemnation of this project as doomed to see the sand disappear within six months and require nearly constant pumping to be successful.

In stark contrast, the Ocean County shoreline remained reasonably stable without the vast influx of beach replenishment sands, mostly due to the lack of severe storms since December 1992. There was only one sizable beach restoration project undertaken in the county until the 2007 Surf City Federal project started on Long Beach Island. The State-sponsored fill in Harvey Cedars placed 465,000 cubic yards of sand trucked to the beach in 1994 and 1995. Too small a scale project to produce other than temporary improvement, the compiled data shows that the county beaches did conclude the interval with an increase in sand volume, but little advance in the shoreline position. The major exception was the change associated with the reconstruction of the south Barnegat Inlet jetty between 1988 and 1991 where immediately south of the jetty, the shoreline advanced over 2,400 feet seaward and all the sand surrounding the inlet ebb-tidal delta moved into an dry beach fillet tapering to the south to a point beyond the municipal limits of Barnegat Light Borough on Long Beach Island. Multiple beach restoration efforts in Cape May and Atlantic Counties show sizable impacts in shoreline advances and sand volume improvements in both counties.

Projects were completed in the municipalities of Brigantine, Atlantic City, Ventnor, Ocean City, Strathmere, Avalon, Stone Harbor and Cape May City extending south including the Cape May Meadows and the Borough of Cape May Point. Each project had a Federal (65%), State (26.25%), and a local (8.75%) financial component that provided a tremendous fiscal advantage to each local municipality in leveraging their local tax funding of large scale beach restoration projects. The 1985 and 2001 Strathmere beach projects were State and locally sponsored on a 75% State – 25% local funding basis. Avalon, Brigantine, Atlantic City, and Stone Harbor have conducted State – local beach projects prior to the Federal sponsorship during the past two decades. Sea Isle City cooperated with the State to nourish the local beach three times since 1978.

The 2010 annual report and the 25-year report (2011) are available online. The 20-year reports contain each volume calculation and shoreline position for EVERY SITE for EVERY YEAR from 1986 through 2006.

Examples of extreme beach erosion and accretion in New Jersey include:

  • The 15th Avenue beach area in North Wildwood, Cape May County retreated 1,054 feet in 20 years.
  • Barnegat Light's beaches around Sixth Street in Ocean County are 2,000 feet wider because of a reconstructed jetty that caused sand to move north.

NJDEP's annual State of the Shore Reports can be found at:

The 13th Annual State of the Shore report was released in May 2015. The report has a winter storm summary, hurricane outlook and summer outlook, as well as a separate section "New Jersey Beaches Two Years Since Hurricane Sandy" that summarized both the erosional effects of Hurricane Sandy and the subsequent massive beach fill projects completed and underway by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Rutgers University has a website that is a source of information on beach erosion in New Jersey.

New Jersey Sea Grant is also a potential source of information on beach erosion.

Understanding Sea Level Rise in the Mid-Atlantic by Ben Horton and Ken Miller is an informative Sea Grant publication.

A USGS report National Assessment of Shoreline Change: Historical Shoreline Change along the New England and Mid-Atlantic Coasts was released in February 2011. The New England and Mid-Atlantic shores were subdivided into a total of 10 analysis regions for the purpose of reporting regional trends in shoreline change rates. The average rate of long-term shoreline change for the New England and Mid-Atlantic coasts was -0.5 meters per year. The average rate of short-term shoreline change for the New England and Mid-Atlantic coasts was also erosional but the rate of erosion decreased in comparison to long-term rates. The net short-term rate as averaged along 17,045 transects was -0.3 meters per year.

In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy made landfall along the U.S. East Coast, and the storm’s strong winds and waves altered the shoreline and the seafloor. New Jersey and the New York metropolitan region got hit especially hard. Suddenly, coastal elevation models were no longer accurate. Emergency planners need up-to-date models, though. Small features on the seafloor and shoreline can dictate where sea water may surge in and where flood water may flow during storms. In response, federal and Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) researchers from NOAA’s National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC) in Boulder, Colorado, are updating detailed elevation models of the coast, above and below the waterline, in areas transformed by Hurricane Sandy, from the Delaware Bay to the Eastern tip of Long Island. First up is the New Jersey coast. For NGDC, the end product will be updated digital elevation models or DEMs, which will help coastal planners, emergency managers and communities better prepare for storm surges, flooding, and property damage the next time a storm like Sandy hits. The DEMs, which depict New Jersey’s coastal and offshore environment, are under review and will be made available to the public within the next year. Read more about this work here.

Past Storms

The Press of Atlantic City reported on February 19, 2003 that a winter storm had caused extensive beach erosion at several locations in New Jersey, including Sea Isle City ("Whale Beach"), Stone Harbor, Cape May Point State Park, North Wildwood, and Ocean City. Beaches in Ocean County were hit hardest, losing between 5 and 6 feet of vertical beach. Atlantic County saw as much as 4 vertical feet of sand wash into the sea.

DEP surveyed the New Jersey shoreline immediately after a nor'easter pummeled much of the Atlantic coast in late 2003 and found moderate-to-severe erosion in Ocean County, minor-to-moderate erosion in Monmouth County, and no significant erosion in Atlantic and Cape May Counties.

An article in The Press of Atlantic City on October 30, 2004 said that beach erosion at southern Beach Haven from "nor'easter" storms was the "worst erosion in ten years", according to Mike King of the Beach Haven Public Works Department.

In 2005, early nor'easters in October hit the Jersey Shore and removed substantial potions of beach, heightening concerns regarding protection of structures adjacent to the shore. As an example, the beach at the end of Princeton Avenue in Manlocking lost about 120 feet of sand in the October storms. Places in Atlantic County, Cape May County and Long Beach Island had similar dramatic impacts.

Strathmere in Cape May County saw perhaps the worst damage during storms in late 2008 and early 2009. Corsons Inlet State Park was nearly swallowed. Upper Township spent nearly $1 million in 2008 to install rip-rap protection in front of million-dollar properties that sit along Seaview Drive. Upper Township and the state are planning a beach fill project estimated to cost $3.5 million that is scheduled for late spring or early summer 2009.

The Heinz Center's Evaluation of Erosion Hazards, conducted for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), studied the causes of coastal erosion hazards and proposed a variety of national and regional responses. The study, published in April 2000, concentrates on the economic impacts of erosion response policies as well as the cost of erosion itself to homeowners, businesses, and governmental entities.

A NOAA website that has graphs of sea level data for many coastal locations around the country over the last 40 to 50 years and projections into the future is Sea Levels Online.

NOAA Shoreline Website is a comprehensive guide to national shoreline data and terms and is the first site to allow vector shoreline data from NOAA and other federal agencies to be conveniently accessed and compared in one place. Supporting context is also included via frequently asked questions, common uses of shoreline data, shoreline terms, and references. Many NOAA branches and offices have a stake in developing shoreline data, but this is the first-ever NOAA Website to provide access to all NOAA shorelines, plus data from other federal agencies. The site is a culmination of efforts of NOAA and several offices within NOS (including NOAA’s Coastal Services Center, National Geodetic Survey, Office of Coast Survey, Special Projects Office, and Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management) and other federal agencies to provide coastal resource managers with accurate and useful shoreline data.

A related site launched in 2008 is NOAA Coastal Services Center's Digital Coast, which can be used to address timely coastal issues, including land use, coastal conservation, hazards, marine spatial planning, and climate change. One of the goals behind the creation of the Digital Coast was to unify groups that might not otherwise work together. This partnership network is building not only a website, but also a strong collaboration of coastal professionals intent on addressing coastal resource management needs. Website content is provided by numerous organizations, but all must meet the site’s quality and applicability standards. More recently, NOAA Coastal Services Center has developed a Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer as part of its Digital Coast website. Being able to visualize potential impacts from sea level rise is a powerful teaching and planning tool, and the Sea Level Rise Viewer brings this capability to coastal communities. A slider bar is used to show how various levels of sea level rise will impact coastal communities. Completed areas include Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, Florida, and Georgia, with additional coastal counties to be added in the near future. Visuals and the accompanying data and information cover sea level rise inundation, uncertainty, flood frequency, marsh impacts, and socioeconomics.

Erosion Contact Info

State of the Beach Report: New Jersey
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