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Dredging Wraps in Tuckerton, But Problem Areas Remain

Posted on May 8, 2023

During Tuckerton Borough’s April 17 council meeting, more dredging questions were cleared up for residents living on Kingfisher Lagoon.

“We are absolutely thrilled to live here. We are amazed at what we see out our back door, the Forsythe marsh,” shared one such resident, Chris Sullivan, who just moved to town nine months ago. However, “Of course, we are very concerned about the dredging and the leakage of the silt coming into our canal.”

Kingfisher residents are plagued by an eroding spit of land (formerly a peninsula) at the end of Little Egg Harbor that washes silt back into the lagoon. The borough received a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant and had developed a stone jetty for part of the eroded peninsula in 2019 but will require more funding to continue the work.

In January, Councilman Brian Martin said the borough would apply for more grants in April, but was told by the office of Congressman Jeff Van Drew that not much can be done in the way of a living shoreline grant because there are no development plans for the site. Developing plans requires funding the borough does not have, and so Van Drew’s office recommended Martin reach out to the American Littoral Society.

In the meantime, the dredging company honored a 20% change order to go back into certain lagoons and clear up additional problem areas. However, Kingfisher was last on the list of priorities, Martin explained during the March 20 meeting, because even focusing all 20% on Kingfisher would have been barely effective, impacting only about 10 homes, as compared to distributing that 20% between Flamingo, Heron and Curlew lagoons, which would benefit about 45% of residents paying for the special assessment.

“We were very disappointed to find that, opposite of what we had heard, that we’re not actually approved on the second go-around for dredging,” Sullivan said. “You know that Kingfisher not only feeds Kingfisher’s docks but it also feeds to Green Street and to Anchor, in the back, so there’s a lot of people going through there.”

Sullivan said the amount of silt coming out of the marsh needs to be addressed. She referenced two “mosquito canals” adjacent to her property, as well as an incomplete bulkhead on Lanyard Lagoon that water gets around and washes silt into the waterways and causes trouble.

She asked Martin if the borough is in active conversation with “whoever owns the marsh” about the impact the marsh is having on Kingfisher.

“That’s Forsythe Refuge that owns it all,” Martin replied. “Virginia Rettig is the head of that.” Martin said he meets with Rettig every two weeks to discuss an ongoing project that will involve replacing the aforementioned bulkhead on Lanyard Lagoon with a living shoreline. A similar project is underway in Stafford Township at Popular Point. “They’re using dredge material mixed with compost … to do plantings in the marsh to grow more grass to stabilize it,” he said. “The true purpose of this grant is to pull carbon out of the air.”

Martin later clarified that the project along Thompson Creek would not be a true living shoreline project because there would not be stone revetment or engineering aspects involved. It would just be the plantings to reduce carbon in the air. While he said it’s “way too early” to say for sure, he suggested the plantings would be along “the sides (of the creek) and it would help keep silt from coming back in.”

Rettig believes Thompson Creek and the stretch along Kingfisher Lagoon are good candidates for living shoreline grants, according to Martin. However, funding is “definitely a ways off,” he added, as the first round of grants have already been awarded and a date is yet to be announced for a second round. “But it’s something we’re going to try to go after, so it’s important that we, kind of, all want to see this Stafford project succeed, because it would mean more of it (grant funds for living shorelines) moving around.”

Should the project be expanded, Sullivan asked if officials would consider the area just behind her property (Lanyard Lagoon) for a living shoreline. The state believes the area should be reclaimed by nature, and will not grant funding for that purpose, Martin explained. “We had to go get a grant to do this project on federal land,” he added. “That falls upon us.”

The incomplete bulkhead is part of Lanyard Lagoon, Borough Clerk Jenny Gleghorn elaborated. “That was man-made, dredged out, so that when they did a dredging project back in the ’90s, we could put dredge material into that project. It was a fail. That’s why there’s a bulkhead there.” The reason the borough was able to get funding for it is because it is technically to fix a man-made mistake.

While the area behind Sullivan’s house also belongs to Lanyard Lagoon, it is not part of the same issue, “and I don’t believe the DEP will permit us to put things back onto the marsh,” Gleghorn continued. “We tried that with something on South Green Street and we were denied that permit as well, so our hands are really tied when it comes to marsh land.”

Anthony Scaglione, of Curlew Road, explained, “That mosquito ditch canal was human-made and it was made after the lagoons were here. So I don’t understand why we wouldn’t be able to cut that off for Kingfisher Lagoon the same way we’re cutting off Lanyard Lagoon.” He suggested making Rettig aware that the area is an unnatural issue that should be closed off to preserve the waterway.

Gleghorn said that proposition has already been made. “(Rettig) doesn’t want all those ditches in there, either,” she said. “She wants to build all those back up … they’re not the issue.” She explained that if the borough were able to undertake future dredging in Kingfisher Lagoon, Fish and Wildlife would be happy to take that dredge material and put it back into the mosquito ditches. The issue, she clarified, is funding. “So we’re in discussion with federal government for funding sources that would include parts of that and some other areas along that area. … We’re talking with Van Drew about that.”

Paradise Cove and Uplander Association member Robert Chandler, who has been working with PCA President Paul Solimani on research to lobby for Thompson Creek dredging, expressed frustration that they have 30 years of documentation on dredging attempts that span five governors, five to seven mayors and a few dozen council people. “It’s maddening. There was actually a quote in 2005 for Thompson Creek – the whole creek: $700,000 – and there was no action followed up on it.”

He continued, “I know that Sen. (and Borough Attorney Christopher) Connors and our two assembly persons have two bills right now that are open in the New Jersey Legislature. One is to authorize dredging approximately 12 to 23 waterways, one of them being Thompson Creek. The companion bill is $26 or $27 million to apply to these projects.” Chandler said Connors told him the first step would be for the bills to be passed by the Environmental Committee, “but neither he, nor (9th District legislators) Rumpf, nor Gove are on that committee, and the two bills have not come to the agenda of that committee, which is run by Democrats.” Chandler asked council to petition the Environmental Committee to place the bills on its agenda. The council assured they would look into it.

On behalf of Solimani, Tuckerton Beach resident Carolyn Kean read an email from Van Drew’s office in response to PCA’s request to initiate an evaluation of Thompson Creek and subsequently provide a written report to Congress.

“We’ll keep you apprised of our engagement with the Office of Maritime Resources and initiatives on open marsh applications of dredge materials,” the letter read. “We have many lagoon communities in south Jersey and ensuring we can maintain these communities effectively and efficiently is a priority for the congressman.”

During the May 1 council meeting, Martin said a final survey will be submitted from ACT (a third party company) for the borough to assess the job done by JPC, which will be paid based on the results of the final survey.

“I unfortunately have no update on the Lanyard Lagoon project,” he said, explaining the borough is still awaiting American Rescue Plan funds from the county.



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