By Lauren Wanko
There isn’t a boat or kayak in site on Shark River during low tide, but plenty of birds on dry land.
“The boaters and users of the river are able to use the river for periods of time throughout the day, however when tide’s low like this, it pretty much shuts down the operations,” said Neptune Township Chief Financial Officer Michael Baschom.
That’s one of the reasons Neptune Township officials want to dredge the channels of Shark River, says Baschom. That plan’s been in the works for 18 years. Officials identified about 70,000 cubic yards of silt in the water. Then the Superstorm hit.
“After Sandy struck, an additional 30,000 cubic yards filled the channels and now we have 100,000 cubic yards of silt that has to be removed. Right now our struggle is finding a location that has the capacity and is close enough to the river to affordably dredge the river,” said Baschom.
Baschom says there are very few locations around the river large enough to hold the dredged material. An area in Shark River County Park was the most recent proposed site, but it was considered too expensive. Neptune Township resident Loretta Eichenour says she’s relieved. She lives very close to the park.
“Very few people, if any, can argue the need to dredge Shark River,” Eichenour said.
But Eichenour was opposed to putting the dredged material on the site close to her home. She said officials were never clear about whether the material was contaminated. She worried how it would affect her property values long-term.
“As well as the diversion of Green Acres and taking that away from the Shark River Park,” Eichenour said.
Neptune Township resident Russ Harmstead also supports the dredging project but not the idea of placing the material in the county park. He says he spoke to a DEP biologist.
“And I asked her point blank, ‘Is the waters of Shark River contaminated?’ and she said, ‘Yes, with fecal coli bacteria,'” Harmstead relayed.
“Is there fecal coliform in the river? Certainly, there is fecal coliform in virtually every water body there is around here,” said Baschom.
“That’s contamination as far as I’m concerned,” Harmstead said.
Baschom says material from the river is not contaminated and the township already removed and tested about 16,000 cubic yards of silt from their municipal marina after the storm.
“Which is the same material that will be coming out the channels. The material is clean. It meets residential disposal standards. There were no odors,” said Baschom.
“We are going to achieve this. We have the commitment of the governor as he stated in this past town hall meeting and we all know when the governor says he’s committed and he supports, he gets it done,” said .
Neptune Township officials say they’ve identified several viable options to move forward with the dredging project and they expect to meet with state officials to discuss their proposals within the next month.