By DON STINE
Plans to dredge the Shark River hit a dead end last week after state officials said a proposed dewatering site for dredge project was not a viable economic option.
In a March 6 letter, state Sen. Jennifer Beck and Monmouth County Freeholder Thomas Arnone advised the Monmouth County Park System that the state Department of Transportation (DOT) said it will not fund placing dredge spoils on a 16-acre tract on the river’s edge at the county’s Shark River Park, off Old Corlies Avenue.
The letter said that the DOT ruled that the use of the park site and the dredging costs “far exceed the state’s monetary allotment for the project. Consequently, the use of Shark River Park (as a dewatering site) is not economically feasible.”
“They did a preliminary cost estimate and found it was too far outside their budgeted costs for the project,” said Neptune Township Committeeman Randy Bishop, a longtime supporter of dredging the river. “This is quite a setback and again we are back to square one.”
Various dredging dewatering sites have been explored for many years but none seems satisfactory by a number of standards. Without dredging, environmentalists say the Shark River will become “a dead river” with little or no marine life.
Bishop said supporters of dredging the river will continue to look for ways to do the project, even exploring ocean dumping of the dredge spoils.
“I know this is done in Europe,” he said.
The Monmouth County Board of Recreation Commissioners was expected to vote this week on moving approvals forward on a controversial 16-acre dewatering site for the proposed river dredging project.
Bishop said that item has now been removed from the board’s agenda.
A vote was to be taken earlier this week on moving the recommendation to use the dewatering site on to the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders for approval.
The proposal called for diverting 16 acres of Green Acres property for use as a site to dewater dredge spoils from the Shark River before they are transported to a permanent dump site. Plans call for the dried spoils to be taken to both township and county landfills.
Neptune has 16 acres of land, near Route 66 and Jumping Brook Road, which would have been swapped as part of the compensation for using the riverside Green Acres tract.
Efforts to dredge the river have been stymied for about 19 years, partially because an adequate site to dewater dredge spoils has not been approved by the DEP, although six other sites have been under review.
The original dredging study, conducted 10 years ago, estimated that about 1.5 million cubic yards of material would have to be removed to restore the entire river. The project was never fully funded but $1 million was being held in escrow by the DOT to help fund it, with only navigation channels receiving top priority.
The scope of the project is now to remove 100,000 cubic yards of material from navigation channels only, with 70,000 cubic yards of old sediment and sand removed and 30,000 cubic yards of deposits from Superstorm Sandy.