Neptune residents living on Seaview Island in the Shark River packed this week’s Township Committee meeting seeking more information about a proposal to use vacant property there to dewater dredge materials from the river.
“We were totally blindsided by this and are very upset,” said Annette Bergstein, president of the Seaview Island Homeowners Association. “We want to get a handle on this and be prepared.”
The Township Committee recently approved a resolution authorizing use of a township-owned parcel along the Shark River to be used as a temporary dewatering site under a state proposal to dredge the river’s navigational channels.
The dewatering site is located at the entrance to Seaview Island, off state Route 35.
“This is the old, proposed musical heritage society property on Seaview Island that has never been developed and now is now township-owned,” Committeeman Randy Bishop said previously.
He said the site was formerly used as a staging area during the reconstruction of the Route 35 Bridge about a decade ago. It was also used to hold some dredge spoils from a Wesley Lake project a few years ago.
Bishop said on Mon., June 22 that residents should have been notified sooner but added there were only a few days to get the resolution done.
A private meeting was held on June 23 between local, county and state officials with local homeowners groups to discuss the project in further detail.
After the meeting, Bergstein said that there was some clarification made, “but not much.”
“It is certainly clear that they are not going to withdraw their resolution (to use the site). The dredging needs to be done and everyone is in agreement with that- and it seems we get stuck with it,” she said.
Bergstein said officials said they will put a berm around the dewatering area and try to keep it as clean as possible. She said the permit to use the site is for 18 months and that there is some consolation in that.
“We feel better that the permit has a start and end date and it cannot go on for years. This timeline makes me a little more comfortable,” she said.
Neptune’s Chief Financial Officer Michael Bascom said on Monday that dredge materials would be loaded directly into awaiting trucks and removed immediately. He said that the only time any material might be dropped on the site is if there is not a truck available at that time.
“No significant amount would be stored at the site,” he said.
Freeholder Thomas Arnone, who has been working on getting the river dredged for 17 years, said the biggest problem has always been designating a dewatering site.
He said that dredge materials will be used for fill at the county reclamation center in Tinton Falls, which will also save taxpayers some money.
He said that a similar project was recently conducted by the county at Wreck Pond in southern Monmouth County and that the project went well and was clean.
“This could emulate the Wreck Pond project,” he said.
A contract to dredge about 106,000 cubic yards of sediment from the Shark River’s navigational channels is expect to be awarded later this summer. Seaview Island, which contains 198 townhouse units, was actually formed using materials from a previous river dredging project.
Bergstein said on Monday that certain sections of the island are eroding back into the river and that dredge materials should be used to reinforce bulkheads that could be put in place to prevent the problem.
Township Business Administrator Vito Gadaleta said that using the dredge materials for infill behind bulkheads was presented to state officials but the proposal has always been denied.
Seaview Island resident Peter Babakian said that residents only learned about the proposed site through the media.
“There was no due process,” he said.
He also said that the dewatering site would only lower property values.
“You just lowered your tax base by 20 percent,” he said.
But Bishop shot back that if the river is not dredged, the property values will also fall.
“If this river becomes a mud flat your property values will suffer, forever,” he said.
Bishop said that the township would never endanger residents and that all dredge materials must be contained and the streets will be swept.
“Everybody wants this done but then it is always not in my backyard. If that were the case, then this will never go anywhere and we will never have a chance. You are concerned- and so are we,” he said.
Other residents suggested using the old Camp Evans site in Wall or dumping the spoils at sea- all of which have been explored but to no avail.
Army Camp Evans, has been seen as the most economical and practical site, with little residential development and being very close to Route 18.
Residents suggested these other sites also be looked into further.