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For Now, Inlet Issues Will Remain In Southern Ocean County

Posted on May 24, 2016

By Daniel Nee, Micromedia

Solutions are on the horizon, but for the near future, at least, boaters will still have to contend with a longer haul and shallow water at Barnegat and Little Egg inlets, respectively.

For Stafford Township and Long Beach Island residents, getting to Barnegat Inlet has taken longer than usual over the past two seasons due to the closure of the Double Creek Channel, the southern channel that leads to the inlet and, ultimately, the ocean.

After Superstorm Sandy, the shallow channel, marked by dog-leg turns and a skinny width, became even shallower, necessitating officials to install numerous hazard buoys and perform frequent marker changes. In the spring of 2014, the markers were completely removed and the state considered the channel closed to navigation, with a promise that a dredging project would soon lead to its reopening.

The good news for boaters it that the dredging project has been scheduled. The bad news is that it will not be completed in time for the channel to be reopened this season.

Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company has been awarded a state contract to dredge to channel, and work is expected to begin this fall, said Kevin Israel, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, which has jurisdiction over the channel.

Boaters to the south have also been impacted by shallow water, with shoals and sandbars making Little Egg Inlet more treacherous than even its dangerous reputation traditionally held.

Aside from the safety issues, the inaccessibility of the inlet has had an economic impact, with just one party boat remaining in Beach Haven and several charter captains having moved their boats northward to overcome the possibility of having to cancel paid trips due to safety issues.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which frequently dredges Ocean County’s other two inlets – Barnegat and Manasquan – does not perform the same maintenance on Little Egg Inlet because they do not consider it to be a “commercial” inlet like the other two.

Over the past year, local officials have lobbied for the Army Corps to use the inlet as a donor site for the ongoing beach replenishment project on Long Beach Island, an idea the federal agency has warmed to in recent months. The inlet and its shoals were found to be acceptable as donor sites, though there were questions as to whether environmental reviews would be completed in time to use the inlet sand in the current project.

Steve Rochette, spokesman for the Army Corps’ Philadelphia District, said the environmental review project was still ongoing, but the possibility of using the inlet in the current project has not been ruled out.

“We’re coordinating with the environmental resource agencies now on this effort – we would need to get the approvals soon in order to use the site for the current construction as our contractor is expected to be working in Holgate in the June timeframe,” Rochette said.

If the inlet is approved in the coming weeks as a donor site, a new specialized dredge boat, the Illinois, will be brought in to conduct operations in the inlet.

Source: Micromedia

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