It seemed like a routine storm. Rain was steady — perhaps heavy at times — but it didn't seem like the precipitation last Wednesday would cause significant flooding.
"A full moon and heavy rain — there shouldn't be flooding like that," Silverton resident Stacy Buono told the Township Council this week.
Council President George Wittmann said that reports state 1 million cubic yards of sand were deposited in the Barnegat Bay as a result of Hurricane Sandy. That extra sand could be impacting the water table, leading to increased flooding potential.
"We want the [state Department of Environmental Protection] to look at that and determine what happened," Wittmann said. "They have flood gauges and water gauges in the bay. We want them to examine that and see what the real problem is."
Council Vice President Maria Maruca said that she attended the Ocean County Freeholder's meeting this week where the issue was discussed.
"They will be bringing these concerns, because Toms River isn't the only town. We're seeing this flooding up and down the coast of New Jersey into New York and Long Island," she said.
Freeholder Director John P. Kelly on Wednesday said he and County Administrator Carl Block have a conference call scheduled with Bob Martin, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection, on getting the issue of debris in Barnegat Bay addressed. In addition to flooding concerns, boating safety is also a factor.
"It is imperative that agencies like the Army Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Environmental Protection work in concert to make sure Barnegat Bay is safe for boaters when the warm weather rolls around this year," Kelly said.
The freeholders have been urging action to clean up debris that Sandy washed into the bay, which is believed to include sunken boats, personal watercraft, parts of homes and untold amounts of household items, since November.
Toms River Mayor Thomas Kelaher sent a letter to Martin on Dec. 31, urging action to help protect property owners who are being flooded while attempting to repair their damaged homes.
"Our residents are wondering if this is the “new normal” and are wondering what they should do with respect to the rehabilitation of their homes," Kelaher writes.
"The uncertainty is already delaying our recovery efforts," he continues.
Whatever the solution is, Wittmann said that township officials will request that the state work quickly to remedy the situation.
"If it's dredging, we want that expedited," he said, while acknowledging that the problem likely will not be fixed for some time. "But it's not something that's going to happen in the next couple of months, unfortunately."
"Everybody is well aware of it," Maruca said. "Hopefully we'll have a plan to address that flooding issue."