A National Guard vehicle drives through the flooded Metropolitan Trailer Park in Moonachie, N.J., on Oct. 30, 2012, in the wake of superstorm Sandy. (Craig Ruttle / AP)
NEWARK, N.J. — Two years after Hurricane Sandy pounded the New Jersey coast, the USCGC Sailfish has yet to return home.
The gleaming white 87-foot patrol boat, now temporarily based out of Bayonne, still cannot go back to its berth at Sandy Hook, where the storm caused $50 million in damage to the Coast Guard facilities. While operational, the patched-up facility continues to await major repairs to its docks and piers, along with dredging to accommodate its two coastal cutters.
Farther down the Jersey Shore, the National Guard is also continuing to feel the impact of a storm that left behind more than $40 million in damage to Army and Air Force facilities.
The final bill for Sandy has yet to be paid, with many residents still out of their homes waiting for insurance checks, towns continuing to rebuild their shorelines, and utilities yet to recover repair costs from storm and flood damage that affected miles of gas and electric lines and flooded facilities. And for military responders here, recovery is also ongoing — with storm repair work deferred or not yet funded, and in some cases, personnel and families forced to relocate.
Next month, the Coast Guard will finally go out to bid on repairs to its Sandy Hook station.
There are four separate but related projects under the one contract, Charles Rowe, a spokesman for the Coast Guard’s Sector New York, told the Star-Ledger . Included are the construction of a new multi-mission building; the waterfront dredging and installing new piers to accommodate the Sailfish and a second cutter assigned to the area before the hurricane hit; construction of an 18,600-square-foot boat maintenance facility, and a small arms firing range.
Construction time will vary for each, said Rowe.
“Bottom line is that we’ve allocated — start to finish once the contract is formally awarded — up to four years,” he said.
Sandy was an expensive fight for the New Jersey National Guard as well as the Coast Guard units based in the region.
The state’s National Guard — which activated 4,837 of its 8,300 personnel, including 2,223 at the height of the storm — incurred $8.2 million just in mobilization costs during the state emergency declared as Sandy hit.
According to officials, $5.3 million was spent on active duty pay during the 10-week mobilization — among them teachers, accountants and firefighters, as well as the state’s adjutant general himself, Brig. Gen. Michael Cunniff, a member of Gov. Chris Christie’s cabinet, who received an additional $6,429 in active duty pay during the storm.
Troops manned security checkpoints, were assigned to shelters, and sent out on security patrols in towns left devastated by the storm. Army Black Hawk helicopters were also deployed. Just feeding the troops cost $1.1 million, ground and air transportation expenses totaled another $858,242, and the GSA spent $712,242 for portable toilets and to buy washers and dryers to allow soldiers to clean their uniforms.
The financial load outstripped the Guard’s available funding, forcing the temporary delay of payment to vendors for meals and supplies, according to Chief Warrant Officer Patrick Daugherty, a spokesman for the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
Additionally, more than $35 million in storm damage was incurred at various guard facilities around the state.
“A lot of that damage occurred at Sea Girt, where the water flooded several structures with about 5 feet of ocean water,” Daugherty said. “The site’s medical clinic suffered significant damage and the loss of medical equipment.”
The Army National Guard vehicle maintenance shop was flooded as well, along with its engineering and maintenance shop, a general instruction building and museum building.
Federal funding provided military construction assistance for much of the repairs, which Daugherty said have been completed or are close to completion.
But the National Guard Militia Museum, hit with $6 million in damage, still needs extensive repairs. While the facility has partially been reopened, the museum artifacts have been mostly placed in storage.
For the Coast Guard, the devastation to Sandy Hook altered the mission there.
“Sandy Hook was badly hit,” said Rowe.
The Coast Guard spokesman noted that not only were the piers and mooring stations broken apart, but base housing for more than 30 families had to be abandoned after a sewerage treatment plant shared with the National Park Service was knocked out of operation.
The station itself was back in operation within 48 hours of Sandy’s passing, said Rowe, albeit with no power and under primitive working conditions. Since then, the Coast Guard’s small response boats have returned, but the two large offshore cutters stationed there — the Sailfish and Bainbridge Island, which both rode out the storm on the Hudson River — were relocated to Bayonne.