SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J. (AP) — The New Jersey shore amusement pier that became an iconic image of Superstorm Sandy when the storm knocked its roller coaster into the ocean will be rebuilt — on dry land and not over the surf.
The owners of the Casino Pier in Seaside Heights have submitted plans to the state Department of Environmental Protection seeking to expand the pier on the north side of the remains of the old one.
The expansion will be done over the beach and won't jut out over the water; a small section of the original pier still extends beyond the surf.
"It's definitely safer than rebuilding the pier out over the water," said Maria Mastoris, a spokeswoman for Casino Pier. "Building that far out over the water would be unsafe in future storms."
The company says extending out over the water would cost at least three times as much as adding to the pier over the sand. Mastoris would not estimate the cost of the project, but the company's permit application to the DEP lists it as $3.5 million.
The department is currently accepting public comments about the proposal, and the permit remains under review, DEP spokesman Bob Considine said.
The Jet Star roller coaster that plunged off the pier into the ocean became one of the most enduring images of Sandy.
The Storino family, which owns the pier, decided within days of the Oct. 29, 2012, storm that it would be rebuilt. Undamaged sections of the pier closer to the boardwalk were open for the 2013 and 2014 summer seasons with fewer rides than the original pier.
The expansion will replace much of the space that was lost when Sandy damaged the pier.
"Without this project, the future of Seaside Heights as a coastal tourist destination will remain threatened," project manager Karen Gruppuso wrote in the company's permit application. "This project is essential to the post-Sandy recovery efforts, not only for Seaside Heights but for this stretch of the Jersey shore."
The pier will have 23 rides open this summer, including a new Double Shot Drop Tower. The selection of rides for the expanded area of the pier will be determined in the fall and winter, but the application says a major new roller coaster and Ferris wheel are planned for the area.
It will involve a land swap between Seaside Heights and the company, with Casino Pier getting a section of beach to build upon, while giving the borough vacant lots to support beachgoer parking and preserving a historic carousel that the company had intended to sell.
Seaside Heights is where MTV's "Jersey Shore" reality series was filmed.
A second amusement pier between Seaside Heights and neighboring Seaside Park, the Funtown Pier, was damaged in the storm, then burned in a catastrophic boardwalk fire in 2013. The towns and the state are considering rebuilding plans for that pier as well.
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC