Delayed sand-moving project prompts tide of gripes

July 21, 1992|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff Writer

OCEAN CITY -- Johnny Grantham routinely popped umbrellas and stacked boogie boards and chairs in the sand yesterday, but business at the 85th Street beach stand was anything but usual.

As Mr. Grantham sat in the shade of an umbrella, bulldozers shoved sand from here to there across the beach nearby. Front-end loaders dumped mounds of sand, pumped from a dredge offshore. Rusty pipes snaked along the beach.

"I hear a lot of complaints," Mr. Grantham said. "People are paying big bucks for an ocean view condo and they come here and find what they have is a view of tractors and bulldozers."

The view should have disappeared by mid-July but inclement weather and problems with a subcontractor delayed the $12.5 million beach replenishment project, state and federal officials said.

"We hope to be finished by the middle of August," said Robert Hill, resident engineer of the Army Corps of Engineers. "Things have gone slower than we wanted."

But "things have improved somewhat" since T. L. James Co., the Kenner, La., firm hired for the work, dismissed a subcontractor two weeks ago, he said.

Since mid-May, the firm has been pumping sand from offshore to restore about 8.5 miles of beach and dune ravaged by a winter northeaster.

The replenishment project is about 50 percent completed, Mr. Hill said. When finished, 1.4 million cubic yards of sand will have been moved from sea to shore, he said.

Dredging is completed from Fourth to 50th Street and from 120th to about 85th Street, Mr. Hill said.

Sand is being pumped at 50th and 85th streets, closing some beach area at those sites. Dredging from 120th Street to the Delaware line will begin after work is completed farther south, he said.

Meanwhile, to accommodate beach-goers,pipes have been repositioned closer to sand dunes and farther from the surf, Mr. Hill said.

Still, there are complaints.

"It's disappointing," said Jim St. John of Bristol, Conn. "It's not the same. We've been here before and you want it to be the way it was."

What Mr. St. John means is that he wants to step out of his rented 84th Street condominium to the beach and not have to walk a few blocks around roped-off construction sites.

City Manager Dennis W. Dare said the project is a double-edged sword. The bad news is that construction is under way during the height of the season. The good news is the beach is protected from storms during hurricane season.

Mr. Dare said town officials were diligent in trying to get the project moving as soon as possible. The only time the work can be done is during the calm seas of late spring and summer, officials said.

The delay will not cost taxpayers more money, Mr. Hill said.

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