MADDY VITALE/Somers Point is dredging the bay to create a new marina.

As Margate continues with permitting to dredge the backbay, nearby Somers Point is dredging to create a new city-owned marina

By MADDY VITALE and NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY

SOMERS POINT – While Margate City patiently waits for state approval to dredge the backbay along Amherst Avenue, just a few miles away, Somers Point has a project underway that incorporates beneficial reuse of dredge material.

Huge mechanical claws are pulling sludge and sediment out of the Somers Point bay in dredging project that is part of a major beautification of the bayfront, which will include a city marina.

By mid-February dredging should be finished and crews will have removed an estimated 8,000 cubic yards of material out of the waters, Somers Point City engineer Greg Schneider said Monday.

“It is definitely in the tons,” Schneider said of the materials being removed from the bay.

Schneider of Mott Associates in Egg Harbor Township may know more about the dredging project, better than most.

“It’s been five years securing the grants and all the permitting,” Schneider pointed out. “It took a long time.”

In the fall, the city announced that it had secured approvals to construct a marina complete with 22 transient boat slips. Two of the slips would be used for a tour boat and emergency vessel.

The end result, Schneider said, will make it all worth it.

“It will revitalize the bayfront,” he noted. “I think it will be really neat when it is all done.”

In Margate, officials are hoping a dredging project will prevent existing marina businesses from losing navigational waters, which are being filled in with shifting sand.

Somers Point officials said the hope is to have the marina constructed by Bayfest, a big spring celebration in Somers Point held in April, with the final touches by the summer of 2019.

Rutala Associates of Linwood secured the grants to finance the marina. A $550,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is being used for the dredging. About $200,000 of a $1.45 million National Boating Infrastructure grant is being used for the dredging. The rest will be used to build the marina, Schneider explained.

Somers Point City Council awarded a dredging contract to Wickberg Marine Contracting, Inc. of Belford in September.

Schneider said the dredging began Jan. 7 and there has only been one day when the crews did not dredge because of the cold temperatures.

Somers Point’s dredge materials are being taken to a disposal site off Route 559. Once the materials are deposited, the soil will create an overlay and grasses will be planted. It will also keep the tide back, so the road doesn’t flood.

“They are bringing it to Somers Point-Mays Landing Road to make a living shoreline,” Schneider said. “It is basically a berm to protect from flooding and also to get rid of phragmites, which are invasive, and we are replacing them with native plant species.”

He explained that the area the city is using for the dredging materials is located on a county right-of-way on the north side of Somers Point-Mays Landing Road, from the Garden State Parkway to the bridge over Patcong Creek. Additional material is going to the old Gateway Marina to raise the parking lot, which is privately owned, he noted.

“The project is neat because we are reusing the material for another purpose,” he said. “It is beneficial reuse of dredge material.”

The idea of reusing the dredge materials is fairly new, he said.

“That is why we got the grant. The state is looking for other ways to use the material,” Schneider said. “It was all tested and it is all clean material.”

Chris Mellon, an inspector with Mott Associates in Somers Point, watched Monday as heaps of sediment were scooped out of the bay using heavy machinery.

“It’s going very well,” Mellon said. “I am making sure the roads are staying clear and clean and counting how many tucks are hauling out the sludge.”

According to Margate solicitor John Scott Abbott, Margate City has spent the last two years investigating dredging the backbay area using a $125,000 grant approved by NFWF in 2014 and has “pioneered the idea of using dredge holes.”

Margate has 50-percent fee-simple ownership of Shelter Island with Ventnor City owning the other half. Shelter Island has a 27-feet-deep hole that was dredged in the 1920s to raise and develop Ventnor and Chelsea Heights, he said.

“We’ve done title work and obtained a survey,” Abbott said at a recent commission meeting.

What the city lacks is a license to use it to deposit materials. Depositing dredge materials into the hole would help re-establish marine habitat lost because the hole is too deep to sustain marine life, he said.

According to city engineer Ed Walberg of Remington, Vernick and Walberg, Shelter Island can accommodate as much as 300,000 cubic yards of material, but only 188,000 is needed to dredge three lagoons, along Amherst Avenue and to cut a channelthrough the bay near the Log Cabin on Jerome Avenue.

“There are a lot of good projects that related to what we want to do,” Walberg said. “If we can make use of Shelter Island, it reduces our costs per cubic yard by 50 percent.”

Dredge materials would be pumped to Shelter Island rather than trucked to another upland site.

Abbott has repeatedly reported to the commission that the process of obtaining permits from federal and state authorities is moving along slowly, “but we’re getting there,” he said previously.

Walberg said he has a detailed proposal for the commissioners to review at an upcoming meeting.

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