Tuckerton Waterways Commission Wants Lagoons Dredged

Aug 30, 2017
Photo by: Pat Johnson Iowa Court in Little Egg Harbor is the first location that will receive funding for a living shoreline to bolster the eroding marsh.

Tuckerton Councilman John Schwartz said the N.J.  Department of Environmental Protection wants to bifurcate the permit to do shoreline restoration in Tuckerton and Little Egg Harbor that has been in progress since the two towns received a $2.13 million National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant in 2015.

On Monday, Aug. 28, Schwartz told the members of the Tuckerton Waterways Commission that Iowa Court in Little Egg Harbor Township is in dire need of shoreline restoration, and in order to expedite that part of the project, he believes the DEP is willing to sign the permits for that part of the project – and, hopefully, that would get the ball rolling on the rest of the project.

Although there is still a funding gap of over $2 million to complete the entire project, with grant proposals out to the DEP Water Quality Restoration grants program ($1,595,000) and federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency for $1 million, Schwartz said the indication that the DEP wants to bifurcate the permitting process for Iowa Court is “the first time we have had some positive movement since we started.”

Schwartz said a meeting in August between Tuckerton and Little Egg Harbor officials with the Army Corps of Engineers and the multiple agencies in the DEP was hopeful. “It was the first time they were all on the same page. But local governments have to prod and push, and that takes a lot of time,” he said.

Tuckerton on its own received a $500,000 grant from the DEP in 2010 to help shore up the eroding marsh peninsula at the end of Little Egg Harbor Boulevard in Tuckerton Beach, but the permits were never issued for that project because of problems with easements. Tuckerton paid for engineering the project. The DEP was proposing rocks in Gambian (wire) baskets as a way to mitigate the area. “Now they are interested in turning that into a living shoreline project rather than a hard surface,” said Schwartz.

Schwartz said he was hoping that Dale Parsons Jr. would have been at the meeting since he is running an oyster bed project in Little Egg Harbor Bay with Stockton University.

The entire NFWF project in Tuckerton proposed to use dredge material from Thompson’s Creek and the silted lagoon areas on the east side of Tuckerton Beach as thin layer deposition to create a higher shore profile of 500 acres of the marsh in the Great Bay Wildlife Management area. If more dredge material was needed, then the lagoons that have silt build-up making navigation difficult on the west side of South Green Street, plus the silt that has formed a “speed bump” at the entrance to Tuckerton Creek would be used.

The Waterways Commission has four members who live in the Paradise Cove lagoon community in Tuckerton and must use Thompson Creek to reach the bay, an area that has been steadily silting in for almost 35 years. The first person to complain about the problem was Dennis Mathisen, who didn’t live to see the NFWF process start.

“If Thompson Creek ever does get dredged, we should rename it Mathisen Creek,” suggested Bill Brady.

Bill Severage said when he moved to Paradise Cove three years ago, his real estate agent told him that a project to dredge the creek was in the works but didn’t say it has always been in the works. “I have to get a different boat because I can’t take my inboard down the creek unless it’s a very high tide.”

Waterways Commission Chairwoman Nedean Maddox said she had been part of a webinar on shoreline restoration, and areas on Fire Island, Connecticut beaches and Amagansett Bay in Massachusetts have had success with living shorelines. Areas in the Delaware Bay have had success, too. A living shoreline is made up of natural coconut mats colonized by mussels and oysters.

Maddox also asked if Schwartz had heard back from Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge director Virginia Rettig if the dredge material from Thompson’s Creek could be used to fill mosquito ditches that crisscross the marsh. Schwartz said no.

“How about the bulkhead across Lanyard lagoon (in Tuckerton Beach)?” she asked.

This bulkhead was a failed attempt to keep dredged material taken out of Kingfisher lagoon many years ago and corral it in an unused lagoon. The material has seeped out the sides of Lanyard to refill a part of Kingfisher. Also, the bulkhead is failing. Schwartz said Forsythe does not have to repair it. Maddox thought that was unfair since homeowners must repair their bulkheads or risk a fine.

On a different but related subject, Mark Salaga said he had noticed that people on personal watercraft such as Jet Skis and Sea Doos are not obeying the no-wake zones on Tuckerton Creek or Jeremy Creek and are adding to the erosion of the banks.

Schwartz said the commission could request help from the new police chief, Brian Olsen, to see if he had any thoughts on how to rope these speeders in.

All waterways that are less than 200 feet across are no-wake zones; that includes all the creeks that connect Little Egg Harbor Bay with Great Bay, including under First Bridge and West Creek’s Westecunk, where it is also a problem.

To end the meeting, Council President Sam Colangelo said he realized the need to dredge the lagoons and restore the shorelines have become “a long, drawn out, frustrating process.”

“But we will see it through to its conclusion. Councilman Schwartz has been constantly applying the pressure. He’s doing the bulk of It.”

— Pat Johnson



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