By Lauren Wanko
Sandy transformed the seemingly calm waters of the Barnegat Bay into a dumping ground for storm debris.
“There were 60 homes that washed away completely and I’m sure all that debris is out here somewhere. We gotta get it out,” said Mantoloking Police Chief Mark Wright.
Crowder Gulf, one of three contractors hired for waterway debris removal, already pulled out three cars from the Barnegat Bay.
“This is a huge boating community and everybody is on the water all summer long and the biggest concern is people getting hurt, obviously public safety,” Wright said.
Contractors have been working on the Barnegat Bay for the past two weeks and, so far, they’ve removed more than 2,000 cubic yards of debris from the water.
New Jersey native Jeff Snyder, president of SeaVision Underwater Solutions, uses side scan sonar to create an image of the bottom of the bay. The debris is marked by yellow buoys.
“We know the geographic location, the latitude and longitude of every debris target and it makes it a lot more efficient for the debris cleanup crews to go back to those targets and reacquire them based on what we find,” Snyder said.
“The sonar boat’s out every day. We try to work right behind it or no more then a couple days behind the boat because the debris can move if the tide goes up or down, it could move the debris,” said Crowder Gulf Director Buddy Young.
A crane operator pulls out the debris — everything from boats to trees to parts of homes. The debris is loaded onto trucks and taken to a landfill. Eventually, contractors will remove a house. During the storm, it was picked up and washed into the Bay. It’s become a symbol of the destruction Sandy left behind. Officials say the Barnegat Bay is now uncharted territory, even to the most experienced boater.
“People are gonna have to slow down and watch what they’re doing. They don’t want to go too fast. Adhere to the safety zones,” Wright said.
FEMA is picking up 75 percent of the removal cost and the state is covering the rest. The Department of Environmental Protection says the goal is to ensure three-quarters of New Jersey’s waterways are clear of debris by June 1.