Members of New Jersey's General Assembly toured Ocean County communities devastated by Superstorm Sandy Thursday.
The tour, led by State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes, along with local officials, gave lawmakers and members of the press an up-close look at what Sandy left behind – including the remnants of the Seaside Heights boardwalk and the now-iconic Jet Star roller coaster, which dropped from Casino Pier to the ocean during the storm.
Casino Pier will be repaired in what is estimated to be a $45 million project, Seaside Heights Police Chief Thomas Boyd said, and the roller coaster will be removed from the ocean floor. However it is unlikely that Funtown Pier in neighborhing Seaside Park will be rebuilt.
Though there was talk of allowing the roller coaster to stay in the water as a tourist attraction, those plans have been abandoned. The first step in removing the roller coaster – and ensuring what remains of Casino Pier is stable – is having divers inspect the area, which should happen soon, said Boyd.
In Seaside Heights, much of the boardwalk debris has been cleared, and crews are already preparing the area for a new boardwalk to be constructed.
"We'll rebuild the boardwalk, all the debris will be cleaned up," said Boyd.
Boyd estimated it will be another month, or longer, before residents can repopulate Seaside Heights on a permanent basis.
Just north of Seaside Heights, the Ortley Beach section of Toms River Township was dealing with its own storm woes.
"This is the area that most people say was Ground Zero for Hurricane Sandy," said Toms River Police Chief Michael Mastronardy.
The popular, oceanfront night spot Joey Harrison's Surf Club was literally ripped to shreds, along with adjacent houses. About 300 dump trucks filled with sand are shoring up the area's dunes each day.
Mastronardy said cleanup also continues on the bay side of Ortley Beach.
Progress was also continuing in Mantoloking, where a breach formed a new inlet near Herbert Street. Crews were in the process of laying new natural gas lines and building what will eventually be a restored Route 35 north.
The legislators also got an up-close look at the devastated Camp Osborn neighborhood in Brick, where about 60 homes burned to the ground during Sandy, presumably due to natural gas fires.