Posted on April 27, 2017
By Andrew Parent, ShoreNewsToday
A permit request from Ocean City to state and federal regulators would allow the city and its private boat slip owners to dredge along the island’s entire bayfront.
Officials also want to make the access road from Roosevelt Boulevard to the large disposal site nearby a permanent haul road for removing dredge spoils from the facility, also called Site 83.
According to Carole Beske of ACT Engineers, the Robbinsville firm hired by the city in 2015 to handle its dredging program, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection are reviewing the city’s application, filed Dec. 31 of last year, for an islandwide back bay dredging permit.
Along with helping streamline the city’s public dredging program, an islandwide permit would allow private boat slip owners and marinas to dredge their own areas. According to information available on ocnj.us, an existing mix of dredging permits in Ocean City under various private and public jurisdictions includes many that have expired.
ACT representatives and city officials held a public meeting in August 2016 for one such community last year, the Nor’Easter Residential Marina on Seventh Street and Pleasure Avenue. There, project manager Eric Rosina said the marina’s permit had expired in 2014, which is why it hadn’t been dredged since then.
Rosina also told the residents about the idea for an islandwide permit, saying the marina would be included.
“They’re all going to be able to dredge without any problem once that permit is done,” Beske, ACT’s president, said Monday.
In a March 24 message to residents posted on the city’s website, Mayor Jay Gillian wrote that the Army Corps was reviewing the city’s permit application to allow dredging along the entire back bay and for private slips.
At the time, the Army Corps had just posted a public announcement of the city’s application. The announcement also stated that residents could send their public comments on the application to James Boyer of the Army Corps’ Regulatory Branch.
In his letter, Gillian encouraged anybody with an interest in dredging to read the public announcement and to send a comment in support of the resort’s efforts.
“It’s important for the Corps to know how important navigable waters are to our economy, safety, property values and way of life,” Gillian wrote.
The other part of the city’s request would keep the dirt road from Roosevelt Boulevard to Site 83 on the marsh behind the center of the island.
Before the road’s completion in 2016, removal projects involved taking spoils by barge from the site to land, where they were loaded into trucks and hauled away. In an ongoing $7.8 million project to take 150,000 cubic yards of dredge material from the site to various locations, Mount Construction Co. has used the road to load spoils directly onto the trucks, a method that officials have said is more cost-effective.
“The hope always was that we would get the permission to do it as a permanent road,” said Beske.
The dirt road to the site, also called Site 83, has been described by city officials as a temporary access road since it was approved by City Council in August of 2015. Under permits initially granted to the city for the road, it is supposed to be removed after the current hauling project is complete.
But Beske said keeping the road for the long haul is pertinent to a long-term fix in Ocean City’s waterways, where thick silt still keeps many lagoons and other areas in the back bay impassable at low tide.
“Ocean City is going to forever need that space in Site 83 for dredging,” Beske said. “It became apparent that if we could get that haul road made as a permanent facility going forward, that is what needed to be done.”
The hauling project at Site 83 should finish by late summer, but subsequent work to rebuild berms at the site will likely last until the end of the year, Beske said.
Because of that, the city needs to find an alternative site to store dredging material if it is to continue public dredging work in 2017, she said. Last fall, a contractor finished an incomplete dredging project in Snug Harbor from 2015 and went on to dredge Glen Cove and the mouth of South Harbor.
Earlier this year, city officials scrapped a plan to use the Shelter Road Recycling Center after a number of residents pushed back against the idea at a December 2016 town hall meeting in the Ocean City Senior Center.
Although she could not elaborate, Beske said her firm is considering other storage alternatives for the fall. She said ACT and the city will hold a town hall meeting next month to present a new plan, along with the permitting application and a list of targeted lagoons and waterways for dredging in fall 2017.
The meeting is tentatively set for Saturday, May 20, she said.
“If there’s big pushback, obviously that’s not going to happen,” she said of any new plans for an alternative disposal site. “The mayor wants to hear from the residents. That will be the final say.”