July 25, 2014
On the eve of Night in Venice, I thought it would be appropriate to provide our bayfront and boating community an update on dredging. As many of you know there is no easy solution to our dredging issues. Along with City Council, I have asked the City team members to detail every feasible option to us, along with cost estimates and timelines.
The most promising option we have is a new approach of wetland creation and thin layer disposal to stabilize wetlands. The City was recently notified by the US Department of Interior, through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, that we, in a partnership with Somers Point, are the recipient of a $2.6 million grant to pursue a project of using spoils to create and enhance wetlands. As a result of the award notification, the City team had to adjust our NJDEP permit to include this approach. The updated permit amendment was delivered to Trenton today. We are optimistic that with the federal government’s support of this approach, the NJDEP along with the US Army Corps of Engineers will approve our permit. Should everything work well, the City may be in a position to begin dredging on July 1, 2015, which is when the State allows dredging operations to begin.
Included in the amended permit application is a request to expand the spoils site under Route 52. As many of you know it is seriously undersized, approximately half the size that was initially designed, with nowhere near the capacity needed to dredge even the smallest lagoon. Again we are optimistic we will be able to enlarge the site to add capacity, in addition to the wetland creation and thin layer disposal approach.
Another parallel option the City is seriously considering is emptying site 83, near Roosevelt Boulevard. However, this is a costly approach, estimated at $4 million per 100,000 cubic yards of material removed. This project would entail barging and trucking material to an approved mainland disposal site. If we pursue this option, funding would need to be put in place, specifications for a contractor need to go out to bid, and the actual emptying operation would take many months. Should everything work well, the City may be in a position to also begin dredging to this site on July 1, 2015.
Ultimately, we need the rules in Trenton and Washington, DC to change so that municipalities can dredge easily and without continued delays and obstacles. Ocean City is in the same position as many other New Jersey coastal towns. We are working with other South Jersey shore communities to have the dredging regulations rewritten. It’s ridiculous that we are dealing with the same regulations as industrialized areas of Northern New Jersey where there are seriously contaminated materials at times. Our dredge spoils are simply fine silts and sands and relatively
clean. We are also considering outside consultants who can assist us in Trenton and Washington to simplify the dredging regulations.
I can understand the frustration of our residents and area boaters and I am frustrated as well. If I was allowed to, I would have a dredge out there now, but we have to follow the process and the rules. Dredging is a significant issue to Ocean City, and my goal is to approach dredging like beach replenishment by developing a long range plan, with State and Federal partners, to ensure dredging occurs regularly. The concepts I outlined are the first steps in the long range plan.
I hope each of you has a safe and happy Night in Venice. I would like to remind everyone to be aware of the many people riding bikes and walking along the bayfront before, during and after the parade. Enjoy the parade, but please stay aware of the pedestrian traffic. Have a great weekend.
Jay A. Gillian