A contract to dredge about 106,000 cubic yards of sediment from the environmentally-beleaguered Shark River is expected to be awarded later this summer, according to area legislators.
“This project is closer to reality than ever before. This is a result of years of work coordinating with the many agencies that have authority over this project. This project focuses on what we can do- dredge the state navigation channels of the river,” said Monmouth County Freeholder Thomas A. Arnone, a former Neptune City Mayor.
“A project like this has to have full cooperation from the federal, state, county, and municipal governments. It has been a long process but one that is moving forward,” he said.
Sen. Jennifer Beck, Monmouth County Freeholder Tom Arnone, Neptune Township Committeeman Randy Bishop and Assemblywomen Mary Pat Angelini and Casagrande issued a joint statement on Monday stating real progress has been made on dredging navigation channels in the river.
Two state permits are needed to move the dredging forward: one from the state Department of Environmental Protection; and the second from the US Army Corps of Engineers. The state Department of Transportation has submitted applications for both permits.
According to the press release, a contract for the project may be awarded later this summer with dredging to begin later this year. The contractor may be given the option to conduct the work over two dredging seasons, if necessary.
“I’m eager to see the project go out to bid.” Bishop said.
Beck said that bid specifications are under development and permits for the dredging process are now being reviewed at the DEP and Army Corps.
“I have been successful in securing a commitment from the state to fund this project, and tangible steps have been taken for this desperately needed project to move forward,” she said.
If the Shark River remains filled in, then it will become dead with little or no marine life, according to environmentalists. An original dredging study, conducted more than 10 years ago, estimated that about 1.5 million cubic yards of material would have to be removed to restore the entire river.
The river was last dredged in 1980, except for federal navigational channels, and it borders five municipalities: Wall, Neptune, Neptune City, Avon and Belmar.
One of the main issues is which municipality will host a river-side dewatering site for the dredge materials.
All five municipalities around the Shark River were recently requested to submit any possible dewatering sites in their towns. Five sites were submitted from four municipalities, with Wall being the only one not to respond. The five sites are not being announced at this time since that might affect the RFPs.
The Wall site, at the former U.S. Army Camp Evans, has been seen as the most economical and practical site, with little residential development and being very close to Route 18.
Bishop said that a dewatering site has not yet been determined but that may fall under the prevue of the contractor.
“They can decide the best way to do this and where to do it,” he said.
He said that Wall has still not agreed to participate.
“As is there right but we can’t let one municipality’s involvement or non-involvement stop us from moving toward. We can’t let that be the only thing that defines the project moving forward,” he said.
“There may be a new technology that we are not even aware of. But we need to do this job and be cost-effective,” he said.
According to recent DEP studies, no contamination is expected to be found in the dredge materials
The Monmouth County Economic Development Office said the Shark River’s 23-mile shoreline generates $59 million annually into the state’s economy.