WORK TO BEGIN NEXT WEEK ON PROJECT TO PROTECT EAST POINT
LIGHTHOUSE ON DELAWARE BAY FROM STORMS AND FLOODING
(19/P090) TRENTON – A contractor for the Department of Environmental Protection will begin work next week on an interim project to protect Cumberland County’s East Point Lighthouse – an icon of the Delaware Bay region and the state’s second oldest lighthouse – from storm surge and flooding, Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe announced today.
The $460,150 project will be implemented by Cape May County-based Walters Marine Construction, using a grant the State Historic Preservation Office secured from the National Park Service.
“This project will provide protection while long-term solutions are evaluated and developed to protect the East Point Lighthouse from storms and sea-level rise,” Commissioner McCabe said. “We continue to work closely with local officials, the state legislative delegation and the Maurice River Township Historical Society on developing a long-term plan to protect this iconic beacon that stands as a symbol for the Delaware Bay region and its rich maritime heritage.”
Due to years of shoreline erosion, the lighthouse has become vulnerable to storms and flooding that could cause irreparable damage to the historic structure if left unchecked.
The interim protection system consists of a geotube, which is an 8-foot-diameter tube made of a durable synthetic membrane filled with sand. A series of mattresses also filled with sand and made of durable synthetic membrane, will be placed along the front edge of the geotube. This system will extend 570 feet, running from the public boat ramp to higher ground along the bay.
“I want to thank Commissioner McCabe for recognizing the need to protect this historic landmark. I, along with my Assembly colleagues Bruce Land and Matt Milam, have been working with the Department and County and Township officials for a number of years on this issue,” said Senator Bob Andrzejczak. “This project will give us time to continue our work with the Department, local officials, and the Army Corps of Engineers to find a permanent, long-term solution to shoring up this important part of Cumberland County’s history and culture. This has been a collaborative effort and we look forward to continuing this vital work.”
Built in 1849 and originally known as the Maurice River Lighthouse, the two-story brick structure sits just 90 feet from mean high water. The DEP’s Division of Fish and Wildlife in recent years has implemented emergency placements of sand and large sandbags to protect the lighthouse from storms.
The lighthouse is located within the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Heislerville Wildlife Management Area, which manages the lighthouse in partnership with the Maurice River Township Historical Society.
The State Historic Preservation Office secured a National Park Service Historic Preservation Fund Disaster Recovery Grant to pay for the project. Construction is being overseen by the DEP’s Division of Construction and Engineering, in cooperation with the Division of Fish and Wildlife.
The Cape Cod-style lighthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In New Jersey, the East Point lighthouse is surpassed in age only by the Sandy Hook Lighthouse, built in 1764. It once guided oyster schooners, sloops, whaling ships and other maritime traffic through the wide and shallow Maurice River Cove and remains an active navigation aid.
Construction is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
Long-term solutions that will be evaluated include elevating the lighthouse, relocation, or protecting it with gabions, which are wire-enclosed boulders assembled as a protective wall. The DEP’s Natural & Historic Resources recently completed a feasibility study to consider elevating the structure.
The East Point Lighthouse operated until the time of the Second World War. Deterioration set in following its decommissioning. A combination of public funding sources has provided much-needed restoration work, including installation of a new roof and lantern, repointing of brickwork and installation of flood pumps.
Formed in 1971 in large part to save the lighthouse from further deterioration, the Maurice River Historical Society lobbied the U.S. Coast Guard to reactivate the lighthouse in 1980. It is open to the public as a historic site.