Plans to Replenish Salt Marsh in Little Egg Harbor Now Focus on Great Bay Wildlife Management Area

Nov 30, 2016
Photo by: Pat Johnson The salt marshes at the end of Great Bay Boulevard that surround the Rutgers Marine Field Station may be suitable for thin layer deposition of dredge material.

The scope of the marsh restoration project in Tuckerton and Little Egg Harbor has changed again. This time it’s the location that has been altered of where dredge material will be spread on the salt marsh to replenish the land.

The type of dredge material has been tested and found nontoxic, according to BRS Inc., the company handling the project.

Tuckerton and Little Egg Harbor are a pilot project for “thin layer deposition” of dredge material on salt marsh although Avalon has apparently had some success, according to Tuckerton Councilman John Schwartz. The project is initially being paid for by a $2.1 million grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation obtained by the nonprofit New Jersey Future for Tuckerton and Little Egg Harbor after Superstorm Sandy.

Leah Yasenchak was the project manager sent to Tuckerton from New Jersey Future and obtained the grant. Her company, BRS Inc., of which she is co-owner, is the subcontractor facilitating the project. T&M Associates, the engineering firm for Little Egg Harbor Township, is doing the engineering.

During the monthly Marsh Restoration Project update call on Nov. 22, Mat Brener from BRS Inc. informed Tuckerton Mayor Sue Marshall and Little Egg Harbor Committeewoman Lisa Stevens that representatives from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the Army Corps of Engineers had determined that the sites that had been proposed for the dredge material should be changed. Instead of adding to the marsh elevation nearest to the towns, the marshes at the end of Great Bay Boulevard were in greater need of “nourishment” and the three islands just off the boulevard including Fish or Crab Island, site of the former menhaden fish factory, would be better suited for dredge material.

All of the areas are within the Great Bay Wildlife Management Area and owned by the state.

According to Brener, a pre-permit application meeting was held in the field on Sept. 15 with representatives of the DEP and the federal agencies. During a follow-up meeting with DEP Assistant Commissioner Kopkash on Oct. 21, the DEP requested  that an alternative area within the Great Bay Wildlife Management Area be investigated for use with the proposed Thin Layer Deposition project associated with the proposed dredge projects in Little Egg Harbor and Tuckerton.

“At this time, T&M Associates is planning additional investigation at these new locations with ecologists at the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary and the Barnegat Bay Partnership who have been working on innovative ‘rapid marsh assessment’ techniques that are favored by DEP. The timeline has slipped somewhat as we establish a scope of work and prepare to conduct the additional investigations. However, we still expect to begin construction at the end of the in-water prohibition period (for winter flounder migration) in June 2017.”

During the Nov. 20 conference phone call, T&M engineer Jason Worth said any additional testing of the areas closest to Little Egg and Tuckerton were halted until the DEP and federal agencies have decided on the final destination for the dredge material.

According to Worth, there is some research available that indicates some marsh areas surrounding the Rutgers Marine Field Station will be underwater by 2030 due to rising sea levels and accelerated sinking of the land because of the increased frequency of flooding.

The project that includes dredging areas of Mystic Island and Osborn Island lagoons in Little Egg Harbor and lagoon areas in Tuckerton Beach and the length of Thompson Creek in Tuckerton now has a funding gap of approximately $750,000.

BRS & New Jersey Future have applied for a National Ocean and Aeronautics Agency (NOAA) Coastal Ecosystem Resiliency Grant for $745,008 and for a DEP Nonpoint Source Pollution Control grant to provide funding for the construction of a Living Shoreline Project adjoining Iowa Court and Great Bay Boulevard, an area in Little Egg that was hit the hardest during Sandy. The NOAA grant announcement is due sometime in December.

Although the area now being investigated as the site for the dredged material is farther away from the dredge sites – four miles from the Little Egg sites and six miles from the Tuckerton sites – the DEP has approved an accelerated testing of the new marsh sites and that could allow for transferring those estimated costs to the cost of pumping the material that far. “We can use the information that the state already has,” said Brener.

Dredging will not be done by the Army Corps of Engineers but will be put out for bid. Those documents necessary for bidding are being gathered by T&M Associates.

— Pat Johnson


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