Early summer remains target for South Jersey inlet dredging, state says

     NOAA nautical chart.

    NOAA nautical chart.

    New Jersey officials remain hopeful that the dredging of a key South Jersey inlet will begin early this summer. 

    The state Coastal Engineering Department said in March that dredging of Little Egg Inlet is needed because parts of the channel have sand buildup, making navigation challenging and dangerous. At the time, officials set an initial target date of July 1 to commence work. 

    “This situation has become critical so we are moving forward, using state money, to dredge the channel and make it safe again for everyone who needs this vital access for fishing and recreation,” New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin said. 

    The channel is a major artery between Long Beach Island and Brigantine. The state plans to remove around 1 million to 1.5 million cubic yards of sand to create a deeper channel. This new channel will be 25 feet below mean sea level.

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    U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Steve Rochette said Friday that the agency’s regulatory office is currently reviewing a permit application for the dredging. 

    The state says July 1 remains the target date.

    “That’s the goal,” Larry Hajna, a DEP spokesman, said yesterday, adding that a request for proposals from contractors won’t go out until the Army Corps is done reviewing the permit. 

    But the SandPaper reports that Long Beach Township commissioners believe that the work will “more likely” begin in mid-September.

    Days before the state announcement of the project in March, the U.S. Coast Guard said its crews were set to temporarily remove buoys marking the channel due to concerns that buildup of sand in the channel has gotten too severe for safe passage of boats.

    The Coast Guard warned boaters that if they use the inlet they would be doing so at their own risk.

    Officials say some parts of the current channel are only 6 feet below mean sea level. Excess sand will be used to replenish nearby beaches.

    Authorities say the dredging project will have little to no impact on the Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge and fish migration.

    Since Superstorm Sandy struck in Oct. 2012, the state has restored 12 channels and begun dredging work on an additional 15.

    Some 200 channels have experienced shoaling to varying degrees since the storm.

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