By Maddy Vitale
Linda Rothermel has lived on the bayfront since 1969. The retired Ocean City Intermediate School music teacher says she wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
She loves living on the water and all that goes along with it, but the mud-choked channel tried her patience.
As she stood and watched dredging crews remove sediment from the bay Friday she said, “I think this is a much-needed project. The boaters can’t go out at low tide. They are stuck. If you have that amount of money where you live on the waterfront, you want to be able to use your boats.”
Rothermel does not have a boat, but she does have three boat slips and would like to rent them out again.
Mud and silt that filled the channels needed to come out. But it took a lot of ingenuity, perseverance and creativity to make it all come to fruition, Ocean City Public Information Officer Doug Bergen explained.
The city hired two companies for a total of $3.1 million for dredging projects to clean out the waterways. This is the latest round in the city’s dredging program to remove silt and sediment from lagoons and channels along the back bays.
“Like many other coastal towns in New Jersey, Ocean City’s bayside waterways lack deep water. Shallow waters often were impassable to boat traffic through much of the tide cycle. Bayfront property owners looked out on mud,” Bergen said. “Even paddleboarders and swimmers had to time the tides to use the bay with some even having to be rescued after sinking hip-deep into the soft bottom.”
The dredging crew working on the area around Rothermel’s home at the corner of W. 17th Street is Southwind Construction, which is based in Evansville, Indiana.
Steve Gant handles quality control for Southwind Construction. He looked out at the channel and surveyed his crew handling the work.
“It’s excellent,” Gant said. “We are ahead of schedule and a lot of mud is coming out of there. These guys are real good. They know what they are doing. They are making sure everything is coming up.”
The tight channel could be challenging, especially with large dredging materials and vessels.
“You really have to know what you are doing, especially in an area like this,” Gant said. “It is so compact.”
The company is using hydraulic dredging to pump the materials out of the shallow lagoons through a pipeline to a disposal facility, known as Site 83, off Roosevelt Boulevard.
Bergen explained that Southwind has already completed work at Clubhouse Lagoon and Bluefish Lagoon on either side of Waterway Road and work at the mouth of Carnival Bayou, between W. 16th Street and W. 17th Street. They will move on to the Waterview area off Waterview Boulevard in Merion Park next.
Southwind has a $2.1 million contract, but about 61 percent of that will be covered by state grants, because that proportion of the project area covers waters under state jurisdiction, Bergen said.
ACT Engineers inspector Juan Cruz watched with Southwind Construction manager Mike Will and Gant, as the crew worked through the day.
“The guys have been doing this project since September,” said Cruz, whose company serves as Ocean City’ dredging consultant.
He added that most people are telling them they are pleased that the work is being completed, but others have complained of the noise and dredging equipment cluttering the channels.
“I hope people can be happy with the end result,” Cruz said with a smile. “They will have a clean bay without all of the mud.”
The project is expected to be completed by the end of November.
Rothermel can be assured, however, that work around her home will be finished in a couple of days, they said.
“That definitely is a good thing,” she said. “That is what they are saying. It will be interesting to see.”
After that time, people with private boat slips can reach out to ACT Engineers to have their private slips dredged at their cost. For information visit email@example.com.
Having a monumental dredging project in the city definitely came with its challenges, Bergen noted.
“The prospects for fixing the problem were as muddy as the bay,” Bergen said. “The city had budgeted money to dredge, but finding a disposal site remained a difficult proposition, complicated by strict environmental regulations.”
In the end, the city emptied the existing confined disposal facility, Site 83, that had been full for years off Roosevelt Boulevard.
The second dredging project underway now in the city is being performed by Longport-based Trident Piling Company for a $1 million contract.
Trident has already completed work at Snug Harbor between 8th Street and Revere Place, the Bay Bridge area between Snug Harbor and the Ninth Street Bridge, and parts of Sunny Harbor between Arkansas and Walnut avenues.
Trident is working right now to remove material by truck from a small disposal facility underneath the Ninth Street Bridge to make room for more work at Sunny Harbor between Spruce and Tennessee avenues. The project also extends to the bayfront at Third Street, and at South Harbor. Trident is using mechanical dredging, a process in which material is scooped up by an excavator and barged to the disposal facility.
Bergen said Ocean City’s efforts to solve the problem provide a model for towns throughout New Jersey on a number of levels:
“Faced with a hodgepodge of current and expired permits among public and private property owners, Ocean City successfully applied for a tip-to-tip maintenance dredge permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection and federal Army Corps of Engineers for every piece of public and private property on the bay side,” Bergen said.
Before now, a citywide dredging permit had never been issued before.
The city was granted approval by the reviewing agencies, and more than 250,000 cubic yards of dredged material was removed to make room for new dredging.
Working with the state through a shared service agreement, Ocean City was able to receive more than $4 million for hydraulic dredging contracts and contract management to open state channels and lagoons leading to the Intracoastal Waterway, he said.
“A creative solution led to an agreement with Wildwood to use trucked dredge material to cap an existing landfill,” Bergen added. “Agricultural uses on turf farms and nurseries also were approved.”