A state-funded project to dredge 106,000 cubic yards of sediment from the navigational channels in the Shark River has been suspended indefinitely due to a lack of funding in the New Jersey Transportation Trust Fund.
“(Halting the project) is an outrageous solution to a serious problem. Trenton needs to act now,” Monmouth County Freeholder Director Thomas A. Arnone said in a prepared statement July 12.
The project, which would dredge sediment from the river’s western section, was expected to resume this month but now a cloud hangs over the entire project.
“The project has been halted and deemed nonessential because of the inability to fund the state Transportation Trust Fund,” Neptune Township Committeeman Randy Bishop said July 12.
The project’s $7.6 million contract, funded with state Department of Transportation money, was awarded to Mobile Pumping and Dredging Co., based in Chester, PA, last year.
Bishop, a longtime proponent of dredging the river, questioned what effect the lack of funding will have on the dredging contract. Dredging began last year but ended in January this year. Under federal and state regulations, dredging is now allowed from July, 2016 through Dec. 31, with environmental constraints determining what periods dredging can occur. Warmer water can allow dredging to continue into January.
“This lack of funding calls into question the viability of the entire project for this year,” he said.
Bishop said he believes the project is “essential” and halting it will have an impact on recreational boating and commercial fishing.
“This is, in fact, an essential project,” he said.
Bishop said a lengthy funding delay could lessen the amount of material taken out of the river this year, or, an extended delay could possibly jeopardize the entire project.
Sen. Jennifer Beck [R-Monmouth] said it is hard to predict what will happen in the near future as long as the legislature remains deadlocked on the issue.
“The leadership of the legislature was well-aware of the (TTF) deadline. Inaction is unacceptable. We knew this needed to be renewed by the end June but legislation at the ninth hour put us in this predicament,” she said.
Beck said a funding delay could result in an extension of the dredging contract.
“I don’t know yet and I assume (the Shark River) is not the only project with a timeline in the state, maybe with related penalties. A lot needs to be looked at,” she said.
And she said, hopefully, a compromise will be reached soon.