Bay Channel Dredging Near Barnegat Inlet on Hold

Tied Up in Governor’s Moratorium on Transportation Projects
Sep 13, 2016

A channel-dredging project off Barnegat Light and Barnegat Township that would have started next month is now on hold under the governor’s shutdown of transportation project spending, officials confirmed.

A state contract awarded in April would dredge four channels: Double Creek Mainland Channel starting at East Bay Avenue, Barnegat; Double Creek Inlet; High Bar Harbor Channel; and Barnegat Light Stake Channel, located off the municipal boat ramp.

The channels have been shallow since Superstorm Sandy.

Last week, NJ Department of Transportation officials told Borough Councilman Ed Wellington, who chairs the docks and harbors committee, that the project is on hold indefinitely. (On June 30, Gov. Chris Christie ordered a halt to ongoing work paid for by the almost-broke Transportation Trust Fund, after the state Senate nixed his proposed 23-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax to replenish the fund.)

“It’s tied up in the governor’s moratorium until the transportation trust gets resolved. It’s a state project, so it is on hold,” Wellington had learned earlier.

His correspondence with state project officials last week answered further questions, but still there was no change.

“This project has been shut down in accordance with Executive Order 210 and will not be started up again until such time as the shutdown order is lifted,” a project spokesperson wrote to Wellington.

“DOT plans to pick up the project as soon as the shutdown order is lifted. As much work as can be done prior to the DEP imposed restrictions will be, however full impact to the schedule cannot be assessed until that time.”

Environmental restrictions demanded that work could not start until after the summer, to protect young flounder and underwater vegetation. It would have started Oct. 1.

Another deadline looms on the other end of the calendar. Work cannot be done between Jan. 1 and May 31 to protect the early life stages of winter flounder, the permit states. Also, dredging is prohibited from April 15 to Sept. 30 due to state Department of Environmental Protection requirements to safeguard submerged aquatic vegetation. All of the work was planned to be accomplished between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31. The winner of the contract was Great Lakes Dredging, the same company doing the Island-wide beach replenishment project.

Some observers were wondering whether the project could be further set back if the company removes its equipment from the area before the moratorium is lifted, but the state officials told Wellington last week that isn’t the case.

“Please note that the equipment used for the beach dredging project is different from that used for the channel project, so removal of the beach equipment is not an issue,” Wellington was told.

That is all the information that is available at this time, according to Wellington.

Project details are outlined in a 52-page packet of maps and drawings.

The dredging would be done in the following order: Double Creek Mainland Channel; Double Creek Inlet; High Bar Harbor Channel; and Barnegat Light Stake Channel.

Dredge spoils for the first three segments would be deposited at a containment site near the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in Lacey Township.

Sand from Barnegat Light Stake Channel would be pumped and deposited near the jetty walkway at Barnegat Lighthouse, according to the plan.

“Behind the jetty rocks there is a low area where they’re going to spread it out behind the walkway,” Wellington had reported after attending a project meeting in Barnegat last April.

Laying pipeline is a big part of the project. The pipeline would be submerged except at four points where booster pumps are needed. When one phase is finished, the pipeline would be shifted to another.

Removing about 43,000 cubic yards from each area, the new channels would be dredged to a depth of at least six feet below mean low water, although some spots may be closer to seven feet.

Some of the channels in the bay requiring dredging are considered not navigable by authorities, Wellington said last spring.

The councilman planned to present the latest information at the Sept. 14 meeting of Barnegat Light Borough Council, and he will pass along further updates as he receives them.

— Maria Scandale

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