The angst for Nunan and other residents who live in "the forgotten south end" may soon vanish. The state Department of Environmental Protection announced this week that it has applied for a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge about 600,000 cubic yards of sand from an underwater site offshore and fill 142 acres of eroded public beachfront between 34th and 59th Streets.
The project, set to begin in March, will probably cost about $3.6 million, with a portion being paid by Ocean City and the rest coming from state funding. The exact amounts each entity will pay have not been determined.
On Feb. 28, the city is set to open the bids it receives for the final phase of a $34 million project that began in 1992 to replenish beaches in the north end.
Included in those bid specifications was a clause asking bidders to indicate how much extra it would cost if the south end were to be part of the project. Officials are figuring it will probably cost less to "piggyback" the south end work onto the bid for the other project because equipment and manpower would already in the vicinity.
"We have felt all along that we deserved to have our beaches replenished just as much as they did in the north end, we pay just as much in taxes as they do," said Nunan, who is also president of a 300-member residents' group called the South Ocean City Improvement Association. "It bothered me when the north end was getting all the sand because I could look out my window and see that the tide was coming up a lot higher here than it ever had before. After all the storms we've had, we desperately need sand down here."
Apparently the DEP agrees.
"We have determined that the south end is in need of replenishment in order to provide protection to the area in the event of severe coastal storms," Bernard Moore, administrator of the state DEP's Division of Coastal Engineering and Construction, said yesterday. "The beaches there are in very poor condition."
Moore said the project's advancement is contingent on the Army Corps' approval of the plans as well as whether state and Ocean City can agree on a equitable division of the costs.
Although the Army Corps would direct and administrate both the south and north end projects, it would not provide federal funding for the south end portion of the plan because it has not conducted its own studies of the area, Moore said.
If the south end project does proceed, a pipeline that would pump sand from a borrow site two to three miles offshore would be run north to south on the beach near the dune line. The sand would be spread on the beach with the aid of bulldozers and front-end loaders.
The new beach would ultimately have a width between 100 and 150 feet.
Beth Minkoff, a spokeswoman for the city, said officials will have to wait until the bids are opened in about two and a half weeks to make the decision about whether the city can afford the project.
"If it's able to work out, this could mean invaluable protection for the public and property in that area and will provide more room for residents and visitors to enjoy the beaches," Minkoff said.
But some residents feel that the project may be "too little, too late" for an area of beaches so ravaged by coastal storms within the last five years, that many areas are now completely underwater at high tide.
"The worry of the city's officials has always been the north end of the island and the forgotten south end never gets anything," said longtime south end resident John Brown. "So to pacify us, they've decided that if they have anything left in what they plan to spend to finish up the north end, they'll give it to us. We're tired of always being thought of last."
Brown contends that the beaches in the south end are in such bad shape that ''it would take a lot more than a little sand to help them."