Posted on April 17, 2023
Dredging has begun again on the east side of Tuckerton Beach, and “while we’re not involved with the private residents dredging in front of their bulkheads, I will say they’re starting with that first,” Councilman Brian Martin explained during the March 20 Tuckerton Borough Council meeting.
Once the privately contracted work is completed, the dredge will go back in to clean up the areas it did not meet within the contracted agreement, namely in Little Egg Harbor Lagoon.
When that work is finished, the dredger will honor a 20% change order to continue farther down as many of the lagoons as possible, with Flamingo Lagoon taking first priority. After Flamingo Lagoon, Heron will take priority, “then whatever is left will be focused on Kingfisher,” said Martin, adding that it is unlikely for there to be anything left over after Flamingo and Heron.
After catching heat from Kingfisher Lagoon residents, Martin spent a significant portion of the April 3 meeting explaining the rationale to residents, using several Google Earth maps he marked up for reference, to show problem areas before and after the most recent dredging.
Some of the residents living off Kingfisher Lagoon expressed the feeling that the lagoons should all be divided up to receive equal amounts of dredging within the 20% change order.
“Keep in mind, the changeover is for 20% of the money that’s authorized. We cannot go above that,” he said, explaining that even focusing the entire 20% on Kingfisher would impact only eight to 10 houses. The impact would be negligible if the work were divided into three equal parts, he said.
While much of the end of Kingfisher Lagoon is filled with sediment, Martin said it would benefit the most residents to address the smaller problem areas in Flamingo, Heron and Curlew lagoons, which would make a substantial impact on those residents’ access to the bay.
Prioritizing lagoons in that order would benefit 45% of the residents paying for the special assessment, he added, as opposed to a mere 2% in Kingfisher.
A potential “light at the end of the tunnel” for Kingfisher, Martin said, is the coastal resiliency project, which would utilize dredge material for plantings on Edwin W. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge land to reduce carbon emissions from the air.
“In speaking with Virginia Rettig (wildlife refuge manager), she feels this area, the area along Thompson Creek, would be a good fit for similar projects in the future.”
(Speaking of Thompson Creek, Paradise Cove and Uplander Association Chair Paul Solimani was advised by District 9 Assemblyman Brian E. Rumpf to start a petition to gain support from both the state and federal government for dredging. So far, he has acquired 720 signatures via a change.org petition.)
The dredging itself would still need to be covered through other means, Martin clarified, but the grant would give the borough the opportunity to hydraulically pump dredge material from Kingfisher into Forsythe, rather than paying to transport and dispose it. This would drastically reduce the cost, he said.
Martin said according to the most recent survey, there were 5,592 cubic yards removed from Kingfisher, 8,363 cubic yards from Heron, 7,461 cubic yards from Flamingo, 2,950 cubic yards from Curlew, and 8,808 cubic yards from Little Egg Harbor. This is not the final survey because more dredge material will be removed, he added.
Curlew is the smallest number, Martin explained, because it shares the spit of land with Little Egg Harbor. “More or less, it’s a fairly even distribution of what’s been removed,” he said.
Martin reassured residents that Borough Engineer Greg Curry was adamant that there be official soundings done at the end to ensure the depth readings show that residents are getting exactly what they paid for.
Dredging is estimated to continue for about three more weeks before Green Street Park is cleaned up and “back in business in time for nicer weather.”
With regard to Lanyard Lagoon, Martin said the borough engineer submitted for the grant extension on Dec. 1, 2022. “We just have not received that official extension back from the DEP.” Martin said the state Department of Environmental Protection reassured council that Tuckerton’s application is still in queue to be reviewed.
Most importantly, aside from the extension, the county confirmed that the borough does qualify to receive the funding. Once the DEP confirms the grant extension, Tuckerton would be placed on the agenda to be voted on by the county commissioners. In the meantime, the JCP Group granted another 60-day extension on the current bid to ensure the borough has enough time to secure funding for the Lanyard Lagoon project. As of the April 3 council meeting, Tuckerton still was not on the agenda.