The Jersey Shore is all about flood mitigation these days.
The sinking land along the ocean and the rising seas have brought the two about 18 inches closer since the start of the last century.
Back then, Atlantic City already was suffering flooding whenever heavy rains occurred while the tides were high and wouldn’t let water drain from the island.
Civil engineers and leaders in response built a clever neighborhood-scale flood control device — the Baltic Avenue drainage canal. It’s actually a 1.8-mile-long concrete tank running beneath the road that can hold 1.1 million cubic feet of rainwater until the tide turns and the water can be drained off the island.
That did the job for more than half a century, relieving flooding in a 775-acre section of Atlantic City. But by the 1960s, the city had failed to maintain the massive wooden gates crucial to controlling the water flow, and the canal became instead a path for seawater to enter town during storm surges.
A couple of years ago, city leaders and planners realized the potential of this engineering wonder and began restoring it for the modern era. The gates are steel and powerful now, and two pumps help drain the basin faster into higher back-bay and inlet waters.
That $13 million project was a great start, funded entirely by federal and state grants. Now, thanks to a $2.45 million federal grant and other funding, this engineering marvel will reach its modern potential sometime in 2022.
Six more 58,000-gallon-a-minute pumps will be added to the two existing ones at Atlantis Avenue to move rainwater into the back bay. The canal’s eight pumps and three outlets will maximize its capacity to keep rainwater from reaching street level.
The city also needs to ensure that trash from the streets doesn’t foul up the operation, as quickly happened when the initial phase became operational. If they haven’t been upgraded yet, the storm drains along streets that don’t meet current standards for keeping out trash and pollution must be replaced.
And city streets need enough trash receptacles to make it completely convenient for residents and visitors to avoid littering. These steps also are needed to cut off a major source of ocean plastic pollution.
In a couple of years, the Baltic Avenue canal will once again set an example of a cost-effective way to deal with nuisance flooding on barrier islands. It will be a destination for visiting flood-control engineers, and a source of civic pride and welcome relief for many residents and guests.