Cranbury moving forward with Brainerd Lake dredging, estimates cost near $5M

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Cranbury is moving forward with the Brainerd Lake dredging process. Photo Courtesy of Matté

Posted May 22, 2019

CRANBURY – The municipal government is preparing to move forward with the much needed dredging Brainerd Lake project that could cost about $5 million.

At the township committee’s last meeting, governing body members approved taking soil samples and creating a grid overlay map of Brainerd Lake, which are initial steps to dredge and apply for permits from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

The soil samples taken will be checked for contaminants.

If no problems are found in the initial phases, the governing body hopes to award a public contract in January or February of 2020, said Mayor James Taylor on Monday.

“And then breaking ground on the actual lake dredging sometime in a May timeframe of next year,” Taylor said.

Brainerd Lake was likely last dredged 40 years ago, the mayor said. The township estimates that the process will cost around $5 million. Dredging removes sediment that has accumulated on the bottom of a body of water. Too much sediment can cause flooding and other environmental issues.

“The lake is central to our town identity. … Historically the lake has been the focal point for generations, for hundreds of years, of town life and town culture,” Taylor said. “But it is also a safety issue. The shallower the lake the more prone we are to flooding or prone to dam damaged [and] we just repaired the dam a few years ago.”

“It’s a big habitat”

As for the wildlife that calls the lake home, Taylor said the fish, turtles and other animals will be removed for re-habitation prior to lowering the lake for dredging.

“It’s a big habitat. Part of this will probably be that the DEP will require us to have somebody come in with netting to remove the fish prior to the lake being lowered like we did when we had to do the dam,” he said. “We don’t know whether the [New Jersey] Division of Fish and Wildlife will do it or whether we will have to find somebody, but that’s part of our review process.”

What’s that smell?

Once the dredging process does begin, Cranbury residents and those nearby will have to endure an odor for the time being.

“Turns out that the most efficient way to is to drain the lake, run a temporary road into the lake, load [the sediment] right into the trucks and take it right out,” Taylor said. “The lake itself will smell, can’t get around that, but we won’t have any period of drying out where it’s going to really smell in the town, which is nice.”

Funding the dredging project is already included in the township’s budget despite having the 10 cent tax rate reduction. The governing body was able to free up cash by receiving financial support from the state and private development for road repairs.

The entirety of the dredging project could be finished by September 2020 since the township will go through a faster permitting process because it recently repaired the dam.