By DON STINE
Ocean Grove residents and the co-owner of the swan boat concession on Wesley Lake in Asbury Park are concerned that a project to dredge the lake is coming too late in the season.
Neptune Director of Planning and Engineering Leanne Hoffman said that the contract to dredge the lake requires it to be done by Memorial Day, or Mon., May 26.
“We are hoping it will be done in advance of that,” she said.
The project is being done by Precise Construction, based in Freehold. If the project is not completed by Memorial Day, there is a $400 penalty for each day the project is not completed.
“I have no indications that the contractor will not meet the deadline,” Hoffman said.
However, some residents and a business owner have some concerns and question why the dredging is being done so late in the season.
Linda Occhipinti, co-owner of Asbury Park Pedal Boats on Wesley Lake, said she is facing some financial hardship because of the project’s timing.
“The water level is so low that I can’t even float any of my boats. Why did they let this project go to Memorial Day?” she said.
Occhipinti said she doubts she will be able to open Memorial Day weekend or even after that date if the water level remains low.
“We only have about three months to make a profit and Memorial Day weekend is our big kickoff- now people don’t think we are even there anymore. I don’t know what to tell our customers anymore,” she said.
In addition to the boats, Occhipinti said that many wedding parties come to the swan boats for pictures and a good time- and that she had to already cancel one and turn others away.
“It’s summer and the bills are starting to come in now as well and I still have to pay everything, even if I am not open,” she said.
She said she and her partner plan to put some boats on the dock, with some flowers and some information about what’s happening.
“We will be back,” she said.
Neptune Business Administrator Vito Gadaleta said that the water level in Wesley Lake is now being raised so that a barge to do the dredging will be able to float and that, hopefully, it will help out the swan boat concession.
“The water level has already risen from where it was. It is still down about two feet but it is now more elevated than it has been in the past,” he said.
Gadaleta said he believes rain water is the major source of water into Wesley Lake.
The township and the Wesley Lake Commission may also plan a clean-up of the lake, with a tentative date of Saturday, May 17.
“But we are not sure how the rising water level could affect the clean-up so we are still looking into the logistics to make it happen,” Gadaleta said.
Information on any clean-up project will be posted on www.NeptuneTownship.org or at www.TheCoaster.net.
Keith Fiori, who purchased a house about one year ago on the Ocean Grove side of Wesley Lake at the western end, said he is upset with the low water level and the amount of debris in the lake.
Fiori said he hopes that some kind of a lake clean-up effort can be organized
He said a clean-up effort would have to get organized and would be a big project.
“I would participate and I think a lot of other people would too. Are you telling me that we can’t get people living on both sides lake to help clean up? I find that hard to imagine,” he said.
As far as any proposed clean-up, Occhipinti said she will also be there.
“The time is perfect to do this,” she said.
Under the current $1.4 million project, both Wesley Lake, between Asbury Park and Ocean Grove, and Fletcher Lake, between Ocean Grove and Bradley Beach, will be dredged, mainly to remove sand that made its way into the lakes during Superstorm Sandy.
About $400,000 of the funding will be used to remove silt and sand in Wesley Lake and $300,000 for de-silting Fletcher Lake. An estimated 45,000 cubic yards of material will be removed. The rest of the current funding will be used to repair 400 linear feet of an eastern retaining wall on the Ocean Grove side of Wesley Lake that that collapsed during Superstorm Sandy.
Gadaleta said that the dredging project will begin at the most western of the two footbridges that cross Wesley Lake and proceed east toward the ocean. He said that only the Neptune side of Wesley Lake, out about 30 to 40 feet, will be dredged since that was the area determined to be most in need and since Neptune has provided much of the funding.
Fletcher Lake will be dredged at its very eastern end where water flows into the Atlantic Ocean and at its very western end where water enters the lake.
Neither Asbury Park nor Bradley Beach has contributed money toward either project.
FOLLOW The Coaster on FACEBOOK here.