Coalition Frustrated Shark River Hasn’t Been Dredged

By Lauren Wanko

We joined the Shark River Cleanup Coalition on a boat ride. They’re frustrated the river still hasn’t been dredged.

“There’s eight hours a day I should say that you cannot use the channels,” said John Dempsey of the Shark River Cleanup Coalition.

The state Department of Transportation tells NJTV News they recently applied for the necessary state and federal permits to dredge the Shark River.

“The whole project is about dredging the navigational channels themselves, not the entirety of the river,” said Neptune Township Committeeman Randy Bishop.

That includes 102,000 cubic yards of sediment.

“Now if we were talking the river, it would be about 1.4 million cubic yards of sentiment. But we have to start somewhere,” Bishop said.

“It’s not even close to being enough. It’s not even one-tenth of what’s needed out of this river. 196,000 cubic yards was recommended by the DOT when they did a study 10 years ago. And since then Sandy came in. They had a big increase in the sand that came in from Sandy,” said Dempsey.

Local leaders and residents have been fighting to dredge Shark River for nearly 20 years.

“The river is dying,” said Assembly candidate Jim Keady.

One of the biggest challenges has been finding a location nearby to temporarily de-water the dredged silt, which is a combination of sand and mud, while it dries. The DOT says two potential dry-sites have been identified — one in Neptune Township and the other in Belmar. In May, the governor said the project was long overdue.

“We got good news for the Shark River folks. This fall we are going out to bid to fix Shark River. I hope that when I come back next summer, keep those signs OK, and I want you to put a D at end of ‘save’ so we can say we saved the Shark River by next summer,” Gov. Chris Christie said.

Dempsey says he invited the governor, DEP and DOT on a boat ride to see the condition of the river. During our trip, the engine kicked up a lot of mud. We spotted another boater encountering the same problem.

“He had to stand up on the bow in order to lift the engines in back because he was sucking up so mud. He’s the middle of the channel and his engines where raised and that’s how the boats have to get through here,” Dempsey said.

Some kayakers needed help after getting stuck in the river.

“Someone’s gonna get hurt,” Dempsey said.

Dempsey says most of the boats here that are trying to get to the ocean need three to four feet of clearance so their engines don’t get ruined from picking up all the mud. The depth finder on this boat indicates we’re in about two feet of water and it’s about an hour and half past low tide.

The material slated to be dredged has been sampled. Bishop insists his town and others never want to put residents in harm’s way.

“The initial tests have come back from samplings in the channels and it is and meets residential standards for the DEP so it is perfectly safe,” Bishop said.

The DOT says the project is currently planned as a demonstration to take advantage of advanced de-watering technologies. The funding source is the Transportation Trust Fund. The DOT won’t release information related to the cost until the project is awarded.