Group caring for historic NJ lighthouse warns state needs to act quickly to save it from flooding, erosion damage

Mark Abrams
November 07, 2019 - 5:30 pm
East Point Lighthouse.

KYW Newsradio

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SOUTH JERSEY, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — A project to protect New Jersey's second oldest lighthouse from flooding isn't enough to save it from the ongoing danger posed by erosion and storm surge from the nearby Delaware Bay, a group which runs the historic site for the state warns. 

Nancy Patterson, president of the Maurice River Historical Society, steward of the East Point Lighthouse in Cumberland County, says the community is appreciative of a $460,000 state project to install a geotube — an 8-foot diameter synthetic membrane filled with sand across a section of the lighthouse property — to deal with flooding and sand erosion.

Officials from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection concede it's an interim step to a long-term solution, but Patterson says time is running out.

"So, basically, the state-owned property has not been taken care of by the state. It's the only one that, through the decades, has been left to just erode and erode and erode over the decades. So, now it's at crisis stage and we really need to have what's been lost or at least a good part of it rebuilt. We need a big beach restoration project," she said. 

Patterson says a bulkhead or a sea wall is needed along the south side of the lighthouse, which is most exposed to the flooding tides from the bay. A jetty also needs to be built, she said, which could help preserve the beach.

Patterson says lighthouses along the ocean coast get lots of attention and funding from Trenton while East Point-area supporters collectively feel the site is treated like an unwanted stepchild.

She warns if state lawmakers continue to ignore East Point's urgent needs, its foundation could collapse in a severe coastal storm and hundreds of years of history will be lost.