Little Egg Inlet Dredging Yet to Get the Green Light

Jul 19, 2017
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

The N.J. Department of Environmental Protection’s permit application for a project to clear hazardous shoals from Little Egg Inlet, a major thoroughfare for boat traffic off southern Long Beach Island, is still under review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Spokesman Steve Rochette said the Corps continues to coordinate issues related to the nearby Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as issues related to fisheries, with the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The project is intended to focus on shoaling of sand on the oceanside of the inlet, with an estimated 1 million to 1.5 million cubic yards of sand to be dredged to create a channel 25 feet below mean sea level.

Superstorm Sandy took a toll on the inlet, and, according to Capt. Rick Ellenberg of TowBoat US Beach Haven, beach replenishment down south has also moved even more sand into the waterway. “Little Egg Inlet has always been a shallow inlet,” he explained, but the problem has now been exacerbated. “It’s like a giant bathtub. The water can’t go in and out; the bay can’t purge itself.”

The problem continues to vex boaters, who will also find buoys in the inlet were removed because of navigational safety concerns caused by the shoaling. As the Coast Guard stated in a May press release: “At this point, the aids to navigation no longer accurately mark the waterway and are misleading to mariners, which can potentially be more dangerous than having no aids to navigation.

“Mariners transiting through Little Egg Inlet do so at their own risk.”

“Temporarily discontinuing the navigational aids (was) a necessary action,” said Capt. Benjamin Cooper, the commander of Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay. “Mariners know that the presence of navigational aids signifies a passage should be safe. With the extent of shoaling in Little Egg Inlet, we cannot maintain the aids in the area, and therefore we have to temporarily discontinue them for the sake of safety.”

While the DEP’s Division of Coastal Engineering announced that it was aiming to expedite dredging – to “make it safe again for everyone who needs this vital access for fishing and recreation,” as DEP Commissioner Bob Martin remarked earlier this year – there is currently no exact timeline in place for when the work might begin.

“The hope is that we get the permit soon and go out to bid so that the project can begin in mid-September,” DEP press officer Lawrence Hajna noted Tuesday.

Ellenberg, who said he has attended numerous meetings also attended by representatives from the DEP and the Coast Guard, is frustrated with the slow pace, and is ready to see the dredging commence. —J.K.-H.

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