Ocean City explores options for lagoon dredging

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OCEAN CITY — The city is considering multiple options to solve its problem with silting lagoons.

Unable to find a site to place dredge spoils, dredging of the lagoons in the city has been stalled. Last summer, several councilmen and city administrator Mike Dattilo met with members of the community to discuss the city’s options, which are limited due to state and federal regulations.

On Thursday, Feb. 27, Dattilo provided council with an update on the administration’s efforts, which include an attempt to empty dredge spoils Site 83 near the 34th Street bridge.

He said the city is undertaking “a number of different efforts on parallel paths.”

Dattilo said that earlier that day he visited with officials from Avalon, which is in the process of removing materials out of a spoils site there so that it may complete a dredge project. The dredge spoils are being hauled to a sand mine in the lower portion of the county. He said that for Avalon, this project is costly.

Ocean City has filed for two grants to fund a pilot project to use dredge spoils to stabilize and create wetlands, according to Dattilo’s written update to council.

“This is being done in other states and is working. It has never been permitted or done in New Jersey and we would like to be the first,” he wrote.

Dattilo also wrote that the city continues to have a good dialog with the permitting agencies at the state and federal levels.

“We are hopeful this will lead to their favorable consideration of some new ideas, including disposal methods that they have rejected in the past,” he wrote.

As Mayor Jay Gillian announced in his 2014 budget address in February, the city is also exploring using dredge spoils, combined with other materials, to raise the city’s golf course at 30th Street.

“Our golf course is an asset, but is underutilized because of poor drainage,” Dattilo wrote.

According to Dattilo, this has been done in New Jersey before.

“This would close the course for a lengthy period of time, but result in an even bigger asset: a quality nine-hole executive course that does not have 100 unplayable days a year due to flooding. There are a number of permitting and logistical issues to explore further to make this a reality,” he wrote.

Dattilo told council that he and city project manager Roger Rinck had a conversation with some New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection representatives on Thursday, who expressed an interest in emptying other spoils sites in Ocean City.

“They have an interest in pursuing emptying some of sites at the far south end of town near Crook Horn Creek,” Dattilo said, which he added would have no practical purpose for city, but would help the state and US Army Corps of Engineers to maintain the Intracoastal Waterway. “We think that it’s in our best interest to work in partnership with them to allow that to happen.”

Dattilo said that these are some of the first times in the state that these materials have been removed from current spoils sites.

“What Avalon is doing and what the state wishes to do with those two sites at the south end is in our best interest as we consider viable ways to empty Site 83,” he said.

In addition, Ocean City has also filed a permit application to enlarge the undersized Route 52 spoils site, which could allow the city to complete the unfinished work from its last contract, as well as dredge Snug Harbor.

In the fall of 2012, the city began a dredging project in the lagoons and bay from 16th Street to Waterway Road, approved by council in May 2012. Hydro-Marine Construction Company, Inc. of Hainesport in Burlington County was awarded the $1.8 million contract for the project. The city acquired the necessary permits to begin dredging the lagoons in June 2012. The permits covered the entire bayfront, “including some private areas,” Dattilo said at the time.

The work began in September and spoils were placed at a site near the 34th Street bridge, commonly known as Site 83, nearly filling the site to capacity. The work halted for the winter and was to begin on July 1, but the contractor did not complete the project due to concerns it had with the site conditions at the disposal facility.

At the May 16, 2013 meeting, council approved moving forward with a project to dredge Snug Harbor, but has been unable to do any dredging due to lack of a place to put the spoils. The Route 52 site is one option that appealed to the city, but there was concern that it was undersized.

According to Dattilo, the site is accessible by both trucks and barges and would be easier to empty in the future to create additional capacity.

Ocean City officials also plan to meet with representatives of all communities in Cape May County, DEP officials and the Army Corps in Trenton to explore solutions. The city is exploring the acquisition of one or more properties in other communities to be used as disposal sites.

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