City looks to move dredging project forward this year

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OCEAN CITY — Diverting $750,000 from a proposed turf field to the back bay, the city upped the ante for lagoon dredging in the recently unveiled municipal budget.

Ocean City plans to spend about $2 million to dredge, but the city needs state permits before it can proceed.

City Director of Finance Frank Donato said that the $2 million comes from an ordinance approved in October last year, as well as the city’s capital plan, introduced at the Feb. 9 council meeting and up for a public hearing and final vote at the Feb. 23 meeting.

“At the moment we have about $2 million put aside for lagoon dredging,” he said.

Mayor Jay Gillian made access to the Great Egg Harbor Bay a priority. When he was inaugurated in 2010, he said dredging the city’s long-neglected lagoons and channel were at the top of his to-do list.

“When I took office dredging was one of my main concerns,” he said. “We hadn’t done any dredging for a while, the lagoons are filling in and it’s getting very difficult for boaters to get in and out of the lagoons. From day one we’ve been trying to get this done.”

Folks living along the city’s bay front and lagoons, he said, are tired of planning fishing trips around the tide for fear of not making it in or out of a lagoon; they’re tired of seeing the bottom of the lagoon at low tide.

“They’re tired of hearing excuses and so am I,” he said. “Our best hope is that we get the dredging done this summer. Our livelihood is boating, fishing, the beach. Our priority is keeping the beach replenishment going and getting the dredging done. Whether you live on the beach or the bay, the lagoon or anywhere in this region, this affects you. Without a beach and bay, we’re all going to be hurt.”

Communities throughout Cape May County find that locating a site for the thousands of tons of mud, silt and sand that need to be pumped out of the bottom of the lagoons almost impossible.

A few years ago, before he was mayor, Gillian said the state of New Jersey pumped out part of the Intracoastal Waterway and used a spoil site the city secured near 34th Street.

“They used our spoil site and we received no compensation for it,” he said. “I don’t know how that happened.”

Gillian said that the state has no plan for where Ocean City should dump its dredge spoils. During the Feb. 9 council meeting, city business administrator Mike Dattilo said that Site 83 off of 34th Street will be able to accommodate approximately 100,000 cubic yards.

“The other important thing is we are obtaining permits with the final disposal site to be determined for the entire bayfront,” he said.

Gillian said the city hopes to begin dredging in May or June.

“We hope to do the whole bayfront and the other lagoons by next year. We’re just waiting for the permits,” Gillian said.

“We’re trying to get everything in place,” he said. “We want to be able to salvage the season for our boaters and fishermen. We’re hoping that this can hold us for a while, we want to get a long-term plan in place.”

Gillian said there is enough room for dredge spoils at the locations to dredge from Waterway Road to 16th Street this year.

“Next year we hope to get everything north of 16th Street finished,” he said. “Before we can do that we need to find another spoil site.”

A lot of mayors are having the same problems, he said.

“The state wants us to truck the spoils out. It’s almost impossible to deal with this; we’re trying everything we can,” he said.

Gillian said the city hired a consultant to help navigate the complicated permitting process and secure another spoil site, and to formulate a long-term plan.

When the city needed engineering services to provide dredging analysis and permitting services for the bayfront lagoon areas from the north end of the island to 34th Street, council hired Duffield Associates. The contract for $194,634 was approved June 9.

At the Jan. 26 City Council meeting, council approved a change order to the city’s professional services contract with Duffield Associates Inc. for dredging analysis and permitting services. Another location is now being added to the contract, from Ninth Street to the Longport Bridge, for an additional $27,220.

“It’s one of those very frustrating things; it’s very expensive and it’s one of those things that has to get done or it could affect our economy,” he said. “If we can’t, it will affect us.”

Bureaucracy, he said, means dealing with endless complications.

“We don’t know the outcome,” he said. “We’re just waiting to see what we can do. Nothing moves quickly.”

Once the new Ninth Street Bridge and Causeway along Route 52 are opened, he said there is a possibility that a spoil site will open up.

“That would help us next year,” he said. “We’re hoping that works out.”

Meanwhile, he said he has met with other mayors and the Cape May County Freeholders.

“We have some ideas. Maybe we can fill geotubes to help us protect the beach, and there is talk about filling in some of the sand pits that have been completely mined,” he said. “We’re trying to think outside the box. Maybe we all get together and buy a dredge. We’re looking at everything.”

Donato said Wednesday, Feb. 15 that the administration will offer a resolution allowing the city to go out to bid for the Intracoastal dredging and lagoon mouth dredging program on the Feb. 23 council agenda.

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