Tuckerton Lagoon Dredging Not Eligible for $2.1 Million Shoreline Grant

Feb 07, 2018

Tuckerton waterfront residents will most likely be facing a tax assessment in the future to pay for having their lagoons dredged. Tuckerton Councilman John Schwartz announced that the expectation to use part of a $2.1 million grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to dredge Thompson Creek and lagoons in Tuckerton Beach has been scuttled by state and federal agencies.

The NFWF grant, obtained in 2015, has always been for shoreline restoration, with the caveat that some dredge material would be used as “thin layer deposition” on the adjoining saltwater wetlands. That plan has been questioned by waterfowlers and the state Division of Fish and Wildlife, which manages the biggest slice of local wetlands, the Great Bay Wildlife Management Area. They predicted the increase in height of the wetlands, and filling of a pond and ditches, would disturb shorebirds and ducks and might lead to more phragmites (reed) intrusion. The federal Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge also objected to the use of dredge pipes and machines across its restricted wildlife habitat.

Schwartz had explained this before in various public meetings but always held out hope that compromises could be reached. But during Monday’s regular Tuckerton Borough Council meeting on Feb. 5, he said emails and conference calls during the past week and a half among all parties had spelled an end to allowing thin layer dredge spoils disposition as a tool for shoreline restoration.

“We are not doing dredging as part of NFWF, as we have reached insurmountable obstacles,” Schwartz said over a phone hookup from his winter home in Florida. “Instead, we will take on the dredging project ourselves. But we need help in finding areas to place the dredge material.”

Schwartz said the town has dredge permits for the Tuckerton Beach area but not for Thompson Creek, a long creek that runs through the salt marsh from Paradise Cove lagoons to Tuckerton Bay.

The money spent ($400,000 at last count) on engineering that took samples of bottom mud to investigate possible environmental hazards, such as heavy metals, and also surveyed the depths of lagoons, will not go to waste, he also said. “That huge cost will not be a factor.”

Later in the meeting, Schwartz said the increased shoreline restoration in Tuckerton includes the Little Egg Harbor peninsula, a small cove along South Green Street that has eroded up to the street; and possibly also an undisclosed spot on Tuckerton Creek.

“Information should be coming quickly on what we will be doing.”

Tuckerton shares the NFWF grant with Little Egg Harbor. Their engineer on the project, Jim Oris, recently left T&M Engineering. Little Egg Harbor is in the process of hiring a new engineer.

In other news, the Tuckerton council approved an application for a Sustainable New Jersey grant in conjunction with Beach Haven borough, the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce and the Tuckerton Seaport in order to support passenger ferry service between Beach Haven and the Seaport. Mayor Sue Marshall was unsure of the amount of the grant; she said there are a variety of grants available. The Beach Haven Borough Economic Development Commission is the lead on the application, she said.

The borough is in line this year for a Community Development Block Grant, and opened a public hearing on the town’s proposal to use $40,000 to repair sidewalks and install wheelchair curb cuts and ramps at various locations. The CDBG representative to Ocean County, which administers the federal grant through the state, is code enforcement officer Jim McAndrew. McAndrew said the town had not received any other applications or suggestions on how to best use the money, which must be spent in low- or moderate-income areas, or to benefit senior populations.

The borough’s bill list of $1,357,490 was a large one this month as it included taxes collected by the borough but paid to Ocean County, and the Pinelands Regional and Tuckerton school districts. It also included $81,227 for work done at the South Green Street Park, but that amount came out of a Superstorm Sandy restoration grant.

Marshall gave the oath of office to 19-year-old Keegan Vreeland to serve as an alternate on the Tuckerton Landmarks Commission. Earlier in the year, another young person, Ryan McAndrew, 19, was appointed to the Pride and Celebration Committee. Soon the mayor expects to appoint a young woman to the Environmental Commission. “I’m happy and proud to see young people getting involved in our town,” she said.

During the public portion of the meeting, a resident from Heron Road asked when he could expect to see work starting on that road in Tuckerton Beach. Borough Business Administrator Jenny Gleghorn said bids for paving were already awarded to Arawak Paving at the end of last year. The borough is accepting bids for the water and sewer line replacements on Feb. 13. If all goes well, work could begin in April, she said.

— Pat Johnson

patjohnson@thesandpaper.net

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