Posted on June 21, 2023
The NJ Department of Environmental Protection, which has been reviewing the city’s request for a dredging permit for the last seven years, wants the city to conduct a second survey of the dredging area. Additionally, when the DEP and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers meet later this month, they may want the city to conduct additional sampling of the sedimentation in the bay.
According to Solicitor John Scott Abbott, the cost of doing the study and sampling a second time could cost more than $100,000.
“It’s distressing,” Abbott said at the June 15 Board of Commissioners meeting. “When some bureaucrat from the DEP casually says, ‘by the way, let’s re-survey that and maybe we have to re-test it again,’ it’s costing us a lot more money. The delay is not from us, it’s from them.”
He suggested the city hire a lobbyist to push the DEP into approving the citywide dredging permit.
The commissioners learned that all the city’s permitting documents are in order, but DEP regulations state that the eight-year-old survey data needs to be updated to determine if there are any changes in sediment, engineer Ed Dennis Jr. said.
“It’s not the answer we were looking for,” he said, noting that the DEP requires survey data be no more than six months old. “Through all the twists and turns on this…unfortunately, they want us to survey the entire dredge area.”
The city will be required to submit new survey data showing the differences in sedimentation, he said, although the process will not delay dredging as the city is not ready to move on funding the project.
“If there are significant differences, they will re-look at the sampling plan we did,” he said. “If there is new material there that wasn’t there before, and if it is significant enough, they could make us go out and re-sample.”
Dennis said the DEP and ACE is meeting at the end of June to review the results of sampling conducted by Stockton University years ago to determine if the city can use Shelter Island as a dredge hole.
“We need more clarity on what we need to do,” Dennis said.
Abbott said that he has personally spent “hundreds and hundreds of hours, mostly non-billed” to try to get the state to approve the permits and using Shelter Island as a disposal site.
“The bay bottom has changed over seven years,” he said, noting that he conducted his own sampling of the material at the bottom of the bay near his home. “Much of it is sand from beach replenishment both on Absecon Island and Ocean City that comes into the backbay, clogging our lagoons, waterways and channels. Why is it taking them so long?”
Abbott noted that the city had to find a lab in Pittsburgh to conduct an analysis of the sampling years ago, and that there are no local labs that perform that type of work.
Abbott said the survey could cost about $50,000 and sampling could cost more than $100,000.
Dennis said he has no cost estimates for the work at this time.
He noted that the city knew the data was old when it submitted the information, and that the city was trying to get the permit without having to do a second set of studies.
“There’s been a lot of twists and turns that got us to this point,” Dennis said.
Once the permit is issued, it could take six months to start dredging. The city would need to create bid specifications and put bond financing in place before awarding a dredging contract.