Long Branch's Hurricane Sandy-depleted beaches could be replenished sooner than most expected, according to Long Branch officials.
"We had very good news about the sand replenishment which could be moving forward more quickly than we thought," City Administrator Howard Woolley said during Tuesday night's Long Branch Council meeting.
Woolley said a recent meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers, which handles beach replenishment projects, revealed that the project could be bid out in May.
Long Branch Police Sgt. Charles Shirley, who also works with the city office of emergency management, said the first portion of the Army Corps of Engineers' beach replenishment would stretch from Sandy Hook to Asbury Park.
Woolley said he was optimistic that the sand replenishment could happen soon, but said the Army Corps of Engineers still needs to come up with a design for what they are going to build based on how much sand is there and how much they will need to bid out for the project.
"They are working like hell to get this thing done," Woolley said.
Woolley said the work would be completed by the New York section of Army Corps of Engineers.
Coucilwoman Kathleen Billings asked if the city would hold off on working to repair its sand bluff and seawall until a clear date for the sand replenishment is known.
"We’re moving ahead on design with that, but we’re going to see how much FEMA is going to give us for the seawall and bluff," Woolley said. "The beach will separate and distinct from that so were going to proceed simultaneously on both fronts and as we’re moving we can modify our design based on what sand they put on the beach."
Woolley said "forensic engineering" will also be performed to determine if the Army Corps of Engineers actually installed the now-damaged seawall. If if is determined that they did, Woolley said they may be able to help repair and maintain it.
He said restoring the bluff remains a top priority for the city as well.
"We’ve got to reconstruct the bluff or we could lose the roadway and we wont have the ability to get the people down onto the beach," he said.
Shirley the beach beach replenishment will likely occur first for Long Branch and could "hinder" the city's progress of rebuilding the bluff, seawall and boardwalk.
Shirley said he expects to have a signed project worksheet for FEMA-reimbursable beachfront repairs within two months. This would put the ball in FEMA's court as the city waits to see how much money it will receive for its various projects.