BELMAR/LAKE COMO, NJ — With the recent heavy rains, the temporary pumps at Lake Como have been working overtime to prevent the lake from spilling over its banks.
The situation has many residents with homes sitting in this flood-risk area of Belmar and Lake Como asking: Whatever happened to the $6.2 million project to install a discharge piping system into the ocean that will ease their flooding fears?
After a nearly two-year wait, the federally funded project may soon be under way. Since Belmar received the Superstorm Sandy relief aid from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in May 2015, officials have been working through a regulatory maze to gain a multitude of approvals and permits from federal, state and county agencies.
“We’ve gone through lots of hoops for a large, very important project that comes with 13 different agency approvals,” Belmar Borough Administrator Colleen Connolly said. “We have now cleared all hurdles but one, and we’re hoping to get that approval shortly, and then we can go out to bid.”
That final approval is in the hands of the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Dam Safety and Flood Control, after it was learned the Ocean Avenue outfall is classified as a dam. As the result, the project was required to comply with all dam regulations, including the need to install concrete cradles to secure the gravity-fed pipe. However, this $100,000 new expenditure fell out of the project's scope and necessitated further approvals in order to be added to the existing bond.
With confidence building that Belmar will soon receive the final go-ahead for the flood prevention project, borough officials will “get to work as fast as we can,” Connolly said, referring to putting the construction work out to bid as the first step.
Once a contractor is selected, installation will commence on the 60-inch-diameter outfall pipe from Lake Como, replacing an inadequate narrow pipe that now drains into the ocean and prompts the need for the temporary pumps to be set up and turned on when heavy rains hit.
The project will be staged so that it will not have an impact on vehicle and pedestrian traffic along Ocean Avenue during the busy summer months. If final approval is received in the next several weeks, borough officials are setting a completion date of early 2018.
The $6.2 million project is funded through a $50 million HUD Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery administered through the state DEP’s Flood Hazard Risk Reduction Program. The grants are awarded to fund projects that reduce storm surge or flood risk in order to prevent flooding conditions that occurred during Superstorm Sandy from happening again.
Although Belmar, Lake Como and Spring Lake border the lake, Belmar was given jurisdiction over the project. During the epic storm, this area was under water for more than a week — a major reason why Belmar was among eight municipalities in the state to receive this second round of Superstorm Sandy HUD funding.