A dredging project that would open up navigational channels in the Shark River has been stopped by a federal agency and will have to begin again this July. The project calls for removing about 106,000 cubic yards of sediment from the river’s western section.
“While were unable get as much accomplished as we hoped we have, in fact, started the project and that should give all of us confidence that we will get the channels dredged,” Neptune Township Committeeman Randy Bishop said earlier this week.
Bishop, a longtime advocate for dredging the river, said there were some issues that did not allow the contractor to begin as rapidly as expected but that it was always in the contract that the company will come back, if needed.
“It was always known they would be coming back. We always believed it would take two sessions, a winter and a summer session, to accomplish dredging the whole channel,” he said.
The project’s $7.6 million contract was awarded to Mobile Pumping & Dredging Co., based in Chester, PA. The project began toward the end of last year.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) only allows dredging from July 1 to Dec. 31 unless the project is granted an extension.
According to the New Jersey Department of Transportation, the NMFS granted the Shark River project an extension for up to two weeks, ending on January 14, depending on the water temperature not dropping below six degrees Celsius, or 42.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
The water temperature can affect spawning habits of fish breeding in the river.
“The Shark River was granted this extension. Unfortunately, the water temperature at the Belmar Marina dropped below six degrees this week, prompting the NMFS to request that we cease operations,” state Senator Jennifer Beck said recently in a prepared statement.
Neptune Township Business Administrator said the dredging officially ended on Monday, Jan. 11. The permit does not allow dredging to resume until July 1. Drying and removing material and remobilizing for the next phase will begin in a few weeks, depending on the weather.
Former Shark River Yacht Club official John Dempsey said his group is glad that the project has begun.
“We are glad they started and will resume in July- and most boat owners will not mind if the dredging activity is going on. They will definitely work around it; we are glad to see progress,” he said.
Dempsey said boaters are concerned that Mobile Pumping & Dredging live up to the contract specs and dredge as deep as six-feet below the low mean tide.
“It will make it a lot easier for boat owners. We are most concerned that they actually finish the job and follow the specs in contract,” he said.
Dempsey said he also hopes that concerned people and politicians start planning for the next phase of dredging the river.
“We need to concentrate on the next phase and clear more channels and improve the water quality of the river,” he said.
Bishop said he believes the contractor will use more state-of-the-art dredging equipment when the project begins again in July.
Dredge materials will be used for fill at the Monmouth County landfill in Tinton Falls