Assessing Beach and Dune Susceptibility in Coastal New Jersey

Issue

Coastal communities in New Jersey are vulnerable to hurricanes and storms from the northeast, or “nor’easters.” High winds and waves and the associated surge can rage for several days, with beach and dune systems serving as a last line of defense in protecting communities against storm damage. In areas where the dune system is lowered or altered over time, or the beach width has been reduced, the system’s ability to function as a coastal defense is diminished.

Process

Richard Stockton College’s Coastal Research Center (CRC) received a grant through the NOAA Coastal Services Center to adapt a program that incorporates and analyzes data―lidar, beach profile, nearshore bathymetry, vegetation, and descriptive site―within a single user interface. The ArcGIS-compatible program, developed by Photo Science, creates parcel-level site characteristics that are used to generate beach and dune parameters for 250-foot analysis zones along the shore. The parameters are then applied to define the performance potential of a beach-dune system, along with specific coastal hazard information, such as FEMA’s criterion for determining a beach and dune’s effectiveness as a storm surge barrier. The New Jersey Beach-Dune System Susceptibility Assessment has been conducted for approximately 65 miles of the state’s coastline.

Impact

Results of this effort show that many areas along the New Jersey coastline are very susceptible to the effects of coastal storm events, which recur on average every 10 years. These storm events are common and can negatively affect coastal environments and the residents of these areas. Specifically, the results have been used

  • By municipalities along the New Jersey coast that have had difficulties demonstrating the importance of shore protection structures and beach replenishment projects to the public. Maps displaying the assessment results have aided state and local officials in addressing the need for a federally funded beach replenishment project on Long Beach Island, New Jersey.
  • To focus efforts in highly vulnerable areas and address the importance of maintenance of beach-dune systems for oceanfront homeowners. Federal, state, and local shore protection and maintenance projects are invaluable to coastal communities along ocean shorelines by providing continued protection to combat the effects of seasonal wind and wave events, storm surge, and rising sea level.