Ocean City to Try Bold Plan to Rescue Flood-Prone Merion Park

first_imgA project to improve drainage in the flood-prone Merion Park section of Ocean City is nearly complete. The Ocean City neighborhood was built on wetlands in the 1950s, and “wet” has always been an apt description for Merion Park.Westminster Lane resident Marty Mozzo estimates that street flooding traps him at home 12 to 15 days a year. His cars are usually OK in the driveway, but he’s unable to drive them through the deep water that gathers on the street during storms and exceptionally high tides. If he needs to travel, he has to find high ground for a car and then wade through the water to retrieve it. Most of Mozzo’s neighbors in the sprawling development are all too familiar with the ritual.But on Thursday night, City Council unanimously passed a resolution that seeks bids on an ambitious project to provide relief to Merion Park. For the first time in city history, pump stations will be used to help drain flooded streets.Ironically, a nor’easter and a near-full-moon tide prevented Mozzo from attending the meeting to hear the good news.“Marty Mozzo told me the only thing that would keep him from coming here would be being flooded in,” Business Administrator Mike Dattilo said with a smile.The new stations will be part of a large-scale improvement project that includes:Replacement of 60-year-old undersized drainage pipes, some of which are known to be damagedReplacement of drainage inletsInstallation of concrete gutter for improved flowRegrading of streets, curbs, sidewalks, driveways and some front yards to achieve better drainage patternsRebuilding and repaving of streetsThe improvements will not be able to prevent flooding in major storms when the tide level rises above the level of streets — instead it’s designed to remediate the more common nuisance flooding the neighborhood experiences.The three pump stations will be installed to increase the drainage capacity of outfall pipes at street ends. The first phase of work (which does not require environmental permitting) is anticipated to start in April. The city hopes to start the second phase during the summer after permits are obtained.“Although the spring-summer timing of the project is not typical, the work will be staged so that access will be maintained for the homeowners,” Georgia Arnold, director of community development, said in a memo to City Council.City Council on Thursday also approved a bond issue and capital plan that designates about $5 million for road improvements this year.For Mozzo and a group of about 22 neighbors interested to working to solve the problem, the approval marks the end of a rewarding process in which the city and the firm Baker Engineers worked with them to create a viable plan.Joseph Newsome, whom many knew as the “Mayor of Merion Park,” long advocated for flooding relief before he passed away in 2011. Mozzo and neighbor Steve Cole picked up the torch and launched the “Flooding in Ocean City, NJ” Facebook page in 2012 after a Fourth Ward meeting hosted by Councilman Pete Guinosso.“Both of us are tired of the flooding,” Mozzo said at the time. “It really destroys the quality of life. We knew that the entire island has issues, not much really was being done, and we want to try to get residents to post comments/photos on the page so that others will know it’s a big problem.”More than a year later, Mozzo is happy to see a solution come to fruition.“To me, this is the way to do it,” he said Friday. “I’m very impressed with Baker Engineering. They did a super first-class job. And they listened to the neighbors. What our problems are and what we need.”Mozzo said he’s confident that the plan will not solve the flooding problem in the “traditional” way — by pushing floodwaters in somebody else’s direction. Waterview Boulevard in the Merion Park section of Ocean City takes on new meaning during several storms and high tides each year.Cars line the streets at any high point in Merion Park during a nor’easter like the one Ocean City experienced on Thursday, Feb. 13.last_img read more