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By Charles Layton

The Neptune Township Committee authorized an additional $118,237 on Monday night for the Broadway drainage project, and officials predicted that residents will see a major improvement once the project is completed.

Engineering consultant Peter Avakian told the Township Committee that the drainage project “was not designed as a flood control project.” However, he said that although preventing all floods in that low-lying area was practically impossible, “I still believe that when the project is complete you’ll get a tremendous benefit out of it.”

What the new system of drainage pipes, grates and outlets cannot prevent, he said, was flooding in cases of heavy rain during high tidal flow or when the water level in Fletcher Lake is especially high.

A number of Ocean Grovers tried to pin down the Committee as to exactly when the much-delayed and highly-disruptive project would finally be finished. It had originally been expected that the work would be done by the end of June. Now, Mayor Randy Bishop said, the Township is hoping all the work will be done by the end of October. Avakian said it would be done by November 15 “definitely.”

The additional money appropriated by the Committee is to cover several unanticipated changes to the project — chiefly, the replacement of an antiquated culvert that collapsed on August 14.

Leanne Hoffmann, Neptune’s director of engineering and planning, said it was unclear whether the culvert collapsed because of something the contractor might have done at the site, but that it would be hard to prove “in a court of law” that the contractor was to blame.

Many of the Ocean Grovers in the audience told the Committee that the three most recent floods on Broadway were worse than anything they had experienced before, and that this was definitely due to the construction activity.

Bishop and other Committee members refused to agree that the contractor’s actions had produced the worse-than-usual flooding. However, Township officials and residents alike have been critical of the general performance of the contractor, James R. Ientile Inc. of Marlboro. “I’ve never seen anything so sloppy from a contractor in my life,” said resident Allan Ellgren of 55 Broadway.

Hoffmann said the contractor will likely resume work at the site on Thursday or Friday of this week.

The additional money authorized on Monday brings the project’s total contract cost to $1,224,000. Bishop said this new money would be enough to cover all the remaining work, including the final phase, which will be the repaving of the entire length of Broadway.

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Editor’s note: Neptune Committeewoman Mary Beth Jahn sends us this letter regarding problems and delays in Ocean Grove’s Broadway drainage project:

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There are a lot of issues, too, throughout Neptune and other built-out towns where the sewer mains are just too narrow to handle the volume of water. Around the corner from my house, Union Avenue between 33 and 8th, has that issue. The main runs out to and up Sixth and is shared with Neptune City and would be incredibly expensive to replace. And it doesnt help that the more asphalt use in development or redevelopment of homes and businesses means less area for rain to permeate the ground and enter our groundwater. That is another big cause of flooding in built-out towns.

Does anyone remember when Route 71 was torn up in 2006 to install the wiring for enhanced Verizon services (now Fios)? What Verizon thought was going to be a one-week job took almost all summer. (I had to keep driving my U-Haul through it as we had just bought the house.) When Verizon started digging, they found all kinds of weird, uncharted things, cobblestones and trolley tracks among them. Then the northbound lane of the road collapsed and had to be rebuilt from the sand up before Verizon could do their wiring. I would love to see underground utilities in the Grove, but what cans of worms would we be opening every time we tore up a street, even a small side street? The Grove is an antique town in the best and worst ways possible: national historic status and citizens who are active participants in preservation and restoration is the best, but not having construction drawings and schematics for everything from day one of the Grove’s sewer installation is one of the worst.

Right now, we’re waiting for the new concrete culvert. We, the Township, kept the contractor to opening only a certain amount of roadway before Labor Day to install lateral fittings we didn’t originally know we needed because there were already parking problems and we did not want to add to them. (Quite frankly, we had originally planned to be done by summer. That was before the contractor opened the road to start work.) That’s also why vehicles, equipment and supplies are stored on the Township-owned grass median – we weren’t losing parking spaces. For the last completed phase of this project, the Camp Meeting allowed us to use the South End parking lot, but that was in the off-season; clearly, that was not feasible during the work this beach season. That is why we needed to use the median. We think it’s ugly and miss the plantings, too.

This project has been ongoing since before I took office in 2007, or, basically, since I lived in the Grove. Fran Paladino is right when he says it was done backwards. I know that every member of every Township Committee that has been in office during the gigantic lifespan of this project wishes we could turn back the clock to when we started this project, reverse the order of the phases in which we’re doing the work and apply the engineering knowledge we have now. It’s hugely frustrating for everyone when we hit hurdles and barriers. We get that knot in our stomachs when we see forecasts for heavy rain, knowing Broadway will flood.

I understand the skepticism that we will get this right, but we will. We will then replant the medians and still make sure that Fletcher Lake’s sluice gate opens when necessary. But don’t take my word for it; let the results speak for themselves. Very soon, we will not have flooding on Broadway.

— Mary Beth Jahn

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TO THE EDITOR: I have been sitting on my porch on Broadway witnessing Neptune pickups driving by, lights flashing, within minutes of the thunder and rain starting. They slowed at drains and checked several times already. We are getting action…better late than never.

— Ken Buckley

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By Charles Layton

Could the Broadway drainage project turn out a failure?

That’s what worried large numbers of Ocean Grovers at Monday night’s Township Committee meeting.

Although this $1 million construction project has plowed up large portions of Broadway, closed the street to traffic for much of the summer and brought noise, trash, dirt and anxiety to residents, many said that, after all that hassle, they doubted the project would fix their perennial flooding problem.

As one resident after another paraded to the microphone to question and complain, it became clear that a major factual disagreement existed between the Township officials and some of those residents.

Township officials contend that the main cause of the August 15 flash flood and a lesser but still significant flash flood on Monday was a partial blockage at Broadway and Central — a blockage that, once corrected, will no longer impede storm water flowing toward outlets at Fletcher Lake.

Some residents weren’t buying that story. They said the problem isn’t a temporary, rectifiable choke point at the Central Avenue intersection; rather, it’s that the entire recently-installed system of underground drainage pipes is too small to handle runoff from a normal summer rain.

Francis Paladino, who lives at 69½ Broadway and is chairman of the OG Sewerage Authority and a former president of the OG Home Owners Association, said that on Monday the water was 18 inches deep along his curb. He said from his own observation of the two recent floods he had concluded that the drainpipes newly installed along the length of Broadway were simply too small, and that this was why the street continued to flood.

“We’d better take a look and go back to the drawing board,” he told the Committee.

Allan Ellgren, who lives at 55 Broadway, told the Committee that he felt “the project is not going to work.” In fact, he said, since the Township began installing the new system, the flooding problem has grown worse.

“I wanted to sell my house. I took it off the market,” he said. “I can’t sell my house without telling the prospective buyer that there’s a flooding problem.”

Eric Tellefsen, owner of The Sea Spray, a B&B at Beach Avenue and Broadway, said “there’s probably five times the volume of water coming down Beach than has ever been seen before.” He said his and his wife’s downstairs living quarters had been flooded repeatedly this year and “we can no longer live there.”

Marilyn Laverty, who has resided on Broadway for nine years, said the recent flooding was “directly related to this project… We’ve had rains as heavy in the past, with less flooding.”

Leanne Hoffmann, Neptune’s director of engineering and planning, said the work at Beach Avenue “isn’t complete yet.” The solution to Tellefsen’s problem, she said, will be the addition of two more grates on Beach, which should be installed by the end of September.

Hoffmann and Township engineer Peter Avakian both said another major remaining task is to replace the old box culvert underneath Broadway at Central. This culvert unexpectedly collapsed on Tuesday of last week, and it was this, Avakian said, that had caused water to back up all down the street. It will take approximately two weeks before the contractor can begin replacing that compromised culvert, Hoffmann said.

Paladino maintained that these fixes won’t solve the problem. Although broken, the old box culvert was carrying all the water that flowed into it on Monday, he said, and in fact it was only “running about half full” because that was all the water the upstream pipes could deliver to it. He said he had personally witnessed this.

Even though Township officials predicted that things would soon be better, they did appear to be scaling back expectations of how well the new system will perform. Whereas Paladino, who has followed the project since its inception, maintained that its original goal “was to eliminate the flooding on Broadway,” Avakian said the system “won’t take all the water” that flows down Broadway. The project will only be able to handle “a two-, five-, ten-, up to a 25-year storm,” he said. Officials said both this week’s and last week’s rains qualified as 25-year storms.

(It is, in fact, possible to have two 25-year rainstorms in the space of a few days; technically, this term means that every year there is a 1-in-25 chance of one of those storms occurring. However, Paladino and Ellgren contended that the two recent cloudbursts were normal summer rains.)

One of the reasons more runoff seems to be pouring down to Broadway these days is that a previous outlet, which took water from Main Avenue beneath the boardwalk and into the ocean, has been eliminated. The water that used to take that route to the ocean now flows south from Main toward Broadway.

Several residents wondered whether the Township intended, once the project is completed, to restore Broadway from its current trashed-up condition to its former beauty as one of Ocean Grove’s showplace boulevards. Mayor Randy Bishop promised that this would be done.

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Wednesday, Aug. 15, Broadway and Pilgrim Pathway. Photo by Darrell Dufresne

By Charles Layton

The primary cause of last Wednesday’s unusually severe flooding, Neptune Township officials say, was the collapse, one day earlier, of an old culvert beneath the intersection of Broadway and Central Avenue.

That culvert carries storm runoff to an outlet at Fletcher Lake.

They say that the culvert – which is a one-foot by eight-foot box — became clogged with debris carried by the fast-running water. Eventually, workers managed to clear that debris, after which the water level on the flooded streets receded.

However, the collapsed culvert must now be repaired, which will take additional time and add to the cost of the Broadway drainage project, which has been plagued with unforeseen delays since late last year. The project — to replace an antiquated drainage system down the entire length of Broadway and then into Fletcher Lake — was already scheduled to cost just over $1 million.

Leanne Hoffman, Neptune’s director of Engineering and Planning, said in an interview on Monday that she was working with the contractor, James R. Ientile Inc., to arrive at a price for replacing the failed culvert. The Township Committee, which meets next Monday, will then need to authorize the work. She said it might then take the contractor four to six weeks to get the materials on site.

The work itself will involve digging up the Broadway-Central intersection, which will be another inconvenience to those living nearby. At present, the collapsed culvert is covered by large sheets of steel in the middle of the intersection.

The caved-in culvert at Broadway and Central. Photo by Charles Layton

The Broadway project has involved the laying of a new system of drains and underground pipes all the way from Lawrence Avenue eastward to Central Avenue. That system of pipes conducts water downhill to Central, then makes a right turn and runs underneath the tennis courts. At the playground beside Fletcher Lake, the system turns left and empties into the lake.

The original conduit to the lake is very old. The project includes the addition of a new conduit, running alongside it, consisting of twin pipes, which will carry 30 percent more water than the old conduit. The old and new conduits combined will therefore have a carrying capacity 130 percent greater than the old system alone.

Even so, Hoffman and Assistant Business Administrator Vito Gadaleta, who was also present during the interview, said they could not guarantee that the new system – once complete – will put an end to all flooding in the Broadway-Central area. Gadaleta said last week’s storm produced 1½ inches of rain in 30 minutes, “which is beyond a 25-year storm.”

“You really can’t design any system to handle that flow,” he said.

Hoffman said workers were forced to react quickly last week when they learned that a major rainstorm was on the way. Their task was complicated by the unexpected collapse of the culvert underneath Broadway.

Workers made a temporary connection between another box culvert, on the north side of Broadway, and the twin pipes of the new conduit system, Hoffman said. In doing so, they patched around a conflicting sewer pipe in a way that partially obstructed the flow of storm water coming into the box culvert – an arrangement some of the area’s residents have criticized. Hoffmann said that temporary connection will now be removed and a new arrangement made so as not to constrict the drainage pipe.

Another problem of concern to residents is the way debris carried by storm water tends to clog the street drains, particularly at the intersection of Beach and Broadway. Hoffman said an extra drainage system will be installed there, which should be of some help.

In short, the main tasks remaining are (1) to fix the culvert that collapsed, (2) to reconstruct the box culvert on the north side of Broadway near Central, (3) to provide additional drainage at Beach and Broadway, (4) to complete the work on curbs and handicapped sidewalk ramps all down the street and (5) to repave the entire length of Broadway.

All of this, said Gadaleta, will produce a system that is intended to handle a 25-year storm. However, said Hoffmann, “I can’t guarantee that it’s never going to flood there again.”

The time frame for the remaining work remains unclear, but Hoffmann said the Township is working under an end-of-the-year deadline, which it must meet in order to retain the DOT funds allocated to the project.

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The scene from Darrell Dufresne’s porch. (All photos by Dufresne except as noted)

By Charles Layton

The people who live along Broadway, and who endured the worst of a flash flood on Wednesday, were full of questions on Thursday.

Some had begun to insist that the Township and/or its contractor had made mistakes in the design and/or implementation of their ambitious storm drainage project, which has been going on for months all down the length of Broadway, and which had been intended to relieve the area’s persistent flooding problem.

Wednesday’s flood was, by many neighbors’ accounts, even worse than those before the new underground drain system was put in place this summer. Cars were flooded above the bottoms of their doors, and the water rose higher up the foundations of houses than has been seen before. (Admittedly, Wednesday’s downpour was unusually severe.)

Some of the neighbors were saying that the contractor had partially blocked off an underground drain pipe on the north side of Broadway, near its intersection with Central Avenue, and that this had caused the rain water to back up and overflow.

Darrell Dufresne, who lives near that drain, said he had noticed the problem during construction. He said that after the new drain pipe had been installed there, its top portion had been cut off and a sewerage pipe from one of the houses had been allowed to cut through it. Then the top part of that drain pipe had been sealed with concrete. He estimated that as much as 60 percent of that pipe’s water carrying capacity had been blocked due to this procedure.

This photo, taken during construction, is of that portion of the main storm drain pipe that, according to Darrell Dufresne, has a serious flaw. The concrete that covers part of the pipe marks where a sewage line crosses the storm drain pipe at a right angle, perhaps blocking more than half of that pipe.

Dufresne, who is an electrical engineer and a consultant with more than 50 years of experience, said he had tried repeatedly to warn Township officials about that problem, but that no one listened. He is convinced that this damming of the street’s main underground storm pipe contributed to the severity of Wednesday’s flooding.

This is one of the new drains that seems prone to clogging. Photo by Charles Layton

Another neighbor, Connie Ogden, said another problem seemed to involve the new drains at the corner of Beach and Broadway. Those drains seem susceptible to being clogged by debris carried by the water as it goes streaming down the street along the curbs. She was one of those who went out during the storm to pull away the debris that was blocking those drains.

This problem of debris on the drains has occurred twice this summer during sudden storms, and neighbors are wondering whether they will now be required on a regular basis to go out during thunderstorms and scrape away debris with their bare hands to prevent flooding. If so, they say, that would seem to indicate a design problem with those drains. Ogden said the previous system, which included cuts in the curbs leading into the underground drains, had seemed to work better than the supposedly improved new system.

These drains are at the corner where the Sea Spray Inn is located. The Sea Spray Inn has had a basement apartment flooded five times during this summer alone. One of its owners, Mary Ellen Tellefsen, said that Wednesday’s flooding was “worse than what happened with Hurricane Irene.”

On Thursday, Blogfinger tried without success to reach the Township’s engineering department to ask about the issues raised by Broadway residents. However, in an email on Thursday evening, Deputy Mayor Eric Houghtaling promised that the Township would soon respond to all of our questions, but that he wanted to make sure they were answered correctly. “Like [with] any new system, there are some things that have to be worked out and maybe corrected,” he told us. “We will persevere.”

Broadway, looking from north to south. Worse than ever?

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By Charles Layton

The sudden cloudburst that hit Ocean Grove late Wednesday afternoon caused unusually severe flooding on the eastern blocks of Broadway, sending water into basements and high up the steps of front porches.

“This is the worst this year,” Connie Ogden said.

Another longtime resident, Kennedy Buckley, who lives on the 60 block of Broadway, called it “record, record flooding,” although he also said that when the rain let up the water went down unusually fast.

Buckley said a parked car on his corner was “absolutely flooded,” and he felt sure other cars must also have been flooded. Ogden agreed. She said many people were able to move their cars out of the worst flooded area, but not all. She estimated the water was 18 to 24 inches high in places. She listed Mary’s Place by the Sea at 15 Broadway and The Sea Spray Inn at 19 Broadway among the places that suffered flooding.

Buckley said he saw water spilling from the north side of Broadway over the grass median and onto the south side of the street.

“It was extremely bad on both sides of Broadway, north and south,” Ogden said.

Buckley said emergency vehicles came “flying by” soon after the storm hit. He said he saw Neptune Township’s engineer, Leanne Hoffman, among other officials at the scene. “Everybody showed up here, there were vehicles all over the place,” he said.

The thunderstorm that passed through Ocean Grove was part of a storm system that struck a large length of the Jersey shore on Wednesday afternoon — from the Sandy Hook area as far south as Atlantic City. A man was reported to have been struck by lightning in Long Branch.

Broadway has been prone to flooding for years. This spring and summer the Township has been at work installing a new storm drain system the entire length of the street, but the project has been beset with problems that have delayed its completion repeatedly.

 

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It happened again after Friday’s rain: Flood waters rose around Broadway and Central, threatening people’s basements and forcing them to slop through pools of water to get to and from their cars.

But Peter Avakian, an engineer for Neptune Township, said Saturday that by this winter the drainage problems that have plagued that area of Ocean Grove for years should be solved.

As the Home Owners Association’s guest speaker on Saturday, Avakian gave a rundown on the project to speed the flow of storm water out of the streets and into Fletcher Lake.

Pretty much all of the water in the southern part of Ocean Grove drains into the lake through a box culvert on Broadway, he said. But after a heavy rain that culvert is too small to handle the flow, and so the water rises and stands along Broadway.

But toward the end of October, Avakian said, new, larger concrete pipes will start going into the ground, and by middle to late December all of the drainage improvement work should be done. Then, in the spring, the entire length of Broadway is to be repaved.

Included in the project is replacement of about 120 feet of Fletcher Lake’s bulkhead, which failed about 20 years ago. Also, a new storm drain treatment device will be installed to screen out silt and other materials before the water goes into the ocean.

Avakian said the entire project will cost $937,000, of which $517,000 comes from state aid.

— Charles Layton

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