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February 22, 2021

Winter Storm Orlena
I am not going to sugar coat the current condition of our beach. It is bad and it is dangerous. Right now, the Only access to the beach is Strickland Street. All others are blocked and will remain that way until further notice, probably until at least into April. Please do not try to enter the beach at the others. They are unsafe.

The three day winter Storm, Orlena, was a powerful Nor’easter that destroyed our beaches from Egbert through North Street. It even forced us to close the Osborne access. Again, ONLY Strickland Street access is open if you feel the need to go on the beach in Bay Head. However, I must emphasize, the beach is not safe. There is no beach at high tide and the dune that remains continues to be eroded and is in danger of collapsing.

If you think we have been sitting by idly, I want to share with you what we have been doing to arrive,  at least,  at a short term fix. We have been discussing long term remedies to prevent this severe damage from occurring again too. I want to assure you, the BHIA says the goal is to open our beaches June 15, as originally planned and we are confident that will happen.

Following is a time line of steps taken to address the after affects of this devastating winter storm. It will not have all the detail but if you call me I will be happy to share more detail. Following is the day to day efforts:

January 31 through February 2, 2021, Orlena hit Bay Head with high winds and high surf.

February 2 - Our engineer, Andy Raichel, walked our entire beach during low tide and produced a Post Storm Beach Assessment. A copy will be put on our website.

February 3 - Ed O’Malley sent me Drone photos and video of our beach taken that morning. Both showed sheer “cliffs” estimated to be 10’ to 18 feet above what was left of the berm and Army Corps Dune.
February 4 - I sent a detailed email, including Andy’s Post Storm Assessment and Ed’s pictures, to the US Army Corps in Philadelphia and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) asking for financial aid and manpower to help is quickly. I also sent the same email to Congressman Chris Smith and to Governor Phil Murphy’s office requesting financial and manpower help for Bay Head. This is a joint Federal and State project, after all, that hasn’t lasted two(2) years. It is there problem to fix in my opinion.

Pictures had also gone out by social media and Jim Murdock of NEWS 12, interviewed me, live, at the top of the “cliff” at Howe Street. We did a followup interview that was broadcast throughout the day and evening.

February 5 - News traveled fast. Chris Smith called to say he was already taking action to help Bay Head. Former Governor and Bay Head property owner, Chris Christie called offering help and saying he would pass my number to Bob Martin, Christie’s Commissioner of the NJ DEP, who might help us as well through his contacts. Governor Phil Murphy left me a message that night to call him in the morning. Tom Gage, President of the BHIA , Andy Raichel, and I spoke and Tom and I authorized Andy to apply for an Emergency Beach Permit which would enable us to do what we felt necessary to lessen the danger facing us on our beach, as best we can and as quickly as feasible. The General Permit we have does not allow us to do what might be needed to correct our current situation.

February 6 - Governor Murphy and I spoke. He had instructed his Acting Commissioner of the DEP, Shawn LaTourette, to reach out and seek help for us and the other beaches. 9 of 81 beaches inspected on the Jersey Coast received MAJOR damage but Bay Head was the worst. He was seeking Federal aid for us.
Bob Martin and I had a lengthy conversation and he was going to discuss some options with Bill Dixon, DEPCoastal Engineering Division.

February 7 - More discussions with Bob Martin.

February 8 - I received a copy of Acting DEP Commissioner’s letter to Brigadier General Thomas Tickner, US Army Corps, North Atlantic Division; Lt Colonel David Park, Commander, Army Corps, Philadelphia District (the person Chris Smith was trying to get to come to Bay Head); and Colonel Matthew Luzzatto, Army Corps, New York District, seeking Aid.

February 9 - There were several conversations with Tom Gage and Andy Raichel on the ongoing repair of the Groins. The Groin field will be a part of the long range plan to prevent future scarfing of the dune and loss of “blanket space” on our beach.

February 10 - Several residents and business people called to offer assistance to us but we will wait to see how the Corps and DEP respond to our pleas fo help.

Chris Smith’s office called to say a meeting was set with Lt Colonel Park,  Bill Dixon, and others for February 12. Also, Andy Raichel completed the Application requesting Authority to Perform  Emergency Post Storm Beach Reatoration.

February 11 - I had a long talk with Bill Dixon discussing what we wanted to get out of the meeting and what we might expect to get. As you can imagine, they were slightly different views but Bill was only trying to be realistic. He was not against us. 

February 12 -The meeting was held, first at the Bridge Avenue street end then on to Mount Street then back to our Court Room in Borough Hall. In addition to me, Tom Gage and Andy Raichel, Lt Colonel Park, Bill Dixon and Kelley Staffieri (DEP), Keith Watson (Army Corps), Congressman Chris Smith, County Commissioner Joe Vicari, Assemblymen Greg McGucken and John Catalano, Borough Administrstor Chris Parlow and Bay Head Chief of Police Bill Hoffman and a lot of Press were in attendance. A lot was discussed in this hour long meeting. The next step would have Bill Dixon and Keith Watson get together to discuss options then convene with Bay Head again with the others. The next group meeting would be February 18.

February 17 - Chris Smith and two of his Aides met with me at the beach in Bay Head atop the precipice at Mount Street to survey and update the damage before our next meeting the next day. It appeared that we had lost another 10 feet of Army Corps dune since our meeting on the 12th. The eroding action of the waves had created a concave carving out of sand below the beach access path forming a cavelike formation. An attractive play area if you were a child but a very dangerous situation with the possibility of the dune collapsing. Many pictures were taken.

February 18 - The meeting was held virtually this time with all the same players. No money would be forthcoming at this time. A letter will be coming from the Corps and the DEP outlining what we would be able to do. Andy Raichel would send a letter to all of us suggesting what we would like to do and give a cost estimate. Because it is still February, we all agreed to not bring in any sand. We will not be pushing sand up from the mean high water line because there is no sand to push. We will remain for now with Strickland Street Access being the only one open. We will be able to repair the vehicular access at North Street in order to get police or emergency vehicles on the beach if needed. Right now that can’t happen. All other Street end access points will remain closed. We agreed to go slow and wait for the storm season to pass.
We hope we will have more direction this week (February 22). As new developments arise we will keep you informed. If you want, you may call or write an email or text to me for more detail and updates.

I can’t emphasize enough how dangerous it is up there now. Every precaution will be taken to keep our citizens safe. If you feel you just have to go up and look please do not go through the barricades or over fences or through neighbors property to get to the beach. Do not risk injury or death to get a look. We are working to get all our beaches ready in the short term and for opening day 2021, which is still scheduled for June 15.

Thank you and God Bless you, God Bless Bay Head and our first responders.

Bill Curtis