Little Egg Harbor Proposes to Bond for Osborn Island Lagoon Dredge Project

Oct 04, 2017
Photo by: Pat Johnson Osborn Island lagoons would be dredged through a bond that will be assessed to the property taxes--but all depends on finding a spot or spots for the mud.

The N.J. Department of Environmental Protection dealt a major blow to the plans by Little Egg Harbor Township and Tuckerton borough to use dredge material for a planned thin layer deposition on 50 acres on the Great Bay Boulevard Refuge Management Area owned by the state and the federal Edwin B. Forsythe National Refuge. This project was to be partially funded through the $2.1 million National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant for shoreline restoration.

During the Sept. 28 Little Egg Harbor municipal meeting, Mayor Ray Gormley told the public he had received an email from the NJDEP stating, “The NJDEP can not approve the marsh restoration project in its current state – the thin layer deposition cannot be approved.”

In response, the township passed a resolution that will allow it to bond up to $4 million for the dredging of the Osborn Island lagoons and have a special assessment levied on the residents on those waterways to pay for the bond.

The township will modify the dredging permit already obtained independently by the Osborn Island Residents Association to increase the amount of dredged material and change the location of disposal.

In addition, the township has instructed Township Engineer Jim Oris of T&M Associates to draft specifications for the fees related to disposal of the dredge material, and in a separate resolution, to prepare an estimate of the cost T&M would charge the township for engineering related to preparing a permit for all areas of the lagoon community of Mystic Island.

Ed Andrew, spokesman for the OIRA, said the residents had spent approximately $100,000 already to get their permits from the NJDEP and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge their lagoons. He asked about the $4 million figure for the bonding that will translate into a special assessment for the 350 homes on the island.

Gormley said the figure was not set in stone but was only the number the township was not to exceed in borrowing or bonding. “Take that $4 million out of your mind.We will not know the exact cost until two things are established: the cost to get rid of it (dredged material) and where it is going,” he said. The resolution passed that evening was not creating the bond; that would have to be done by a separate ordinance.

But Oris said if the township decides to go forward, the cost could be significant because the township must pay the prevailing state wages.

Andrew also said that when he and others had met in a lagoon dredging ad hoc committee with Gormley and Oris, the committee was made up of more than Osborn Island residents.

“Our recommendation was that we look at dredging all the waterfront areas, not just Osborn, and not do it piecemeal because that would be like paving half a road.”

Gormley answered that was the long-range plan but because OIRA already spent $100,000 of residents’ own money to get the dredge permits, Osborn Island would be the first area dredged.

He added that once the modified permit is acceptable to the NJDEP and Army Corps and the township has figured out where to put the dredged material (mud) and the costs associated with trucking it to the site or sites, then the town will invite the homeowners to a presentation. Homeowners also would get a chance to vote on whether they want to go ahead and accept the special assessment.

Art Mooney, resident of one of the township’s senior communities, said he appreciated the fact the rest of the upland communities would not be paying for the lagoon dredging.

And Peter Ferwerda from Warren Grove suggested the township go out to bid for the engineering to get the most competitive price.

Andrew said, “My mission as a spokesperson for Osborn Island Residents Association is to assure that you won’t misuse or abuse our $100,000 asset that took us a long time to obtain. I’m asking you to use it prudently and effectively as possible.

“It was never our intent to turn it over to the township, and we want to be able to get the permit back,” he said.

Gormley said, “The entire governing body are doing all we possibly can towards our goal of allowing people to enjoy the water. We are trying to get it (logistics) done by next September as we only have a four-month window when we can dredge. We are pleased they (NJDEP) allowed us to use the testing that was done and will allow us to proceed without more public comment.”

The mayor had brought a 1961 photo of Mystic Island in its beginning phases to illustrate the statement that the lagoons had never been dredged since then.

Gormley said he has been looking into the progress of Ocean City’s dredging projects and has looked into the possibility of using the township’s public works yard as a disposal site for some small amount of dredged material that could be made into a topsoil by mixing it with the composting material the public works makes out of leaves.

“We might have to add some lime, but we could make it available to the public and landscapers,” he suggested.

He has also approached some blueberry farmers in Hammonton with the possibility of taking the material.

“There is a tremendous amount of work that still has to be done,” he added.

— Pat Johnson

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