Posted on October 26, 2015
Rick Weber of South Jersey Marina said the biggest problem with dredging is finding a place to put the dredge material before dredging actually begins.
Speaking at a dredging forum sponsored by the Cape May County Chamber of Commerce Oct. 19, Weber said the current method of dealing with dredged material is stockpiling, which he referred to as a Band-Aid solution. He said one current idea is spreading a thin layer of the material on marshlands. Weber said 6 to 8 inches of silt is thin enough to allow the marsh grass to work its way up through the material.
“Putting clay silt back on the wetlands sounds like a great idea,” he said. “To me, this is our number one problem – material management.”
Weber said “putting back” because he believes that is where a lot of the silt comes from that is clogging back bay waterways. He said the vast majority of local dredged material is very clean. The biggest contaminant, he said, is arsenic, which occurs naturally in marine organisms.
Weber said most people don’t think about dredging or that New Jersey is one of the few states that are peninsulas, along with Florida.
“Most people enter (New Jersey) by crossing a water,” he said.
Given that fact, Weber believes New Jersey should position itself as a water playground.
“We have it all when it comes to water,” he said, including rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, wetlands, back bays, the Delaware Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean. “That’s my big picture view, and I get frustrated when we ignore it.”
Weber said dredging would enhance the tourism industry. He said if all the money put into the casino industry had been applied to the recreational boating industry, New Jersey would have something difficult for other states to copy — like gambling.
“If we had put the money into a true, functioning Intracoastal Waterway like Florida has, we could develop the entire backside of the barrier islands,” he said.
Weber said people would be able to boat up and down the waterway, stopping at restaurants and hotels that could be developed there. He said home values would soar if people were able to operate larger boats there. However, he said, in boating circles the word is to skip New Jersey.
“As a boater and a citizen of the state, New Jersey is loaded with potential. It’s a shame we don’t take advantage of the possibilities we were given,” he said.
Weber said fortunately the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is looking more favorably on the dredging situation in South Jersey.
He said one of the environmental barriers to dredging is that this area was included as a winter flounder breeding habitat. That designation is expected to change.
U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, who attended the dredging forum, said Tuesday that the case was made that the science indicated the coastal region south of Absecon Island was not a winter flounder breeding habitat.
He said Lou Chiarella, the assistant regional administrator for the Habitat Conservation Division of the National Marine Fisheries Service, came to the dredging forum to make the announcement that this area was being removed from the winter flounder breeding habitat.
LoBiondo said before Monday, any dredging project would have been required to halt operations in December. He said by a show of hands there were about 30 ongoing dredging projects that won’t have to stop due to the new guidelines.
Ocean City business administrator Jim Mallon said the city has ongoing dredging projects. He said Ocean City also has issues with dealing with dredged material, which he said is very expensive. Mallon said the city has two storage sites: one off the 34th Street bridge, called Site 83, and another under the Ninth Street Bridge.
“The challenge we have is 83 is full. Now where do we put it?” Mallon said.
Mallon said anytime you place material, wherever it ends up, there has to be a permit from the DEP and US Army Corps of Engineers.
“There are places that can take this material, but a cost is associated with it. You have to pay someone to take it, pay someone to take it there, pay to take it out of 83, plus the cost of permitting,” Mallon said. “And we have to pay to test it before we dredge and after dredging.”
Ocean City has been able to enter into a shared services agreement with Wildwood, which is using some of the dredged material from Ocean City’s lagoons to cap a landfill in Wildwood. Ocean City is trucking up to 50,000 cubic yards of material to Wildwood and paying the city $10 per cubic yard to take it. Mallon said this is a lower cost than some private firms would charge, but still expensive. And, he said, 50,000 cubic yards is just a drop in the bucket.