By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Ocean City has been spending millions of dollars in the past few years for an ambitious dredging program to clear out sediment-choked channels and lagoons along the back bays. In some places, the sediment had been so thick that boaters were unable to navigate through the shallow lagoons at low tide.
The next round of dredging is expected to get underway this fall and will target a series of lagoons in need of maintenance to keep them in good shape.
“The city knows that this program is critically important to our community,” City Business Administrator George Savastano said. “Waterways that are properly maintained to ensure safe navigation not only serve the boating public, but serve the entire city by enhancing the viability of our community as a seashore resort.”
Local waterways scheduled for dredging beginning in September or October will include Snug Harbor, Glen Cove, Sunny Harbor, Venetian Bayou, South Harbor and Waterview, according to city documents.
City spokesman Doug Bergen described the upcoming work as maintenance-type dredging to avoid the need for more extensive projects like those done in the past.
“We don’t want to fall behind again and do massive projects,” he said. “This is making sure that everything stays navigable.”
City Council has authorized seeking bids for the dredging work. The city’s 2019-2023 capital plan proposed spending $1 million in 2020 and another $1 million in 2021 for dredging. Bergen noted that it won’t be clear exactly how much the dredging will cost until the bids are submitted by contractors.
“The bids will determine the price tag for the 2020-21 dredging program,” he said. “The figure from the 2019 capital plan was assigned before the 2020-21 dredging program was created. It is not necessarily reflective of what the program will cost.”
ACT Engineers Inc. of Robbinsville, N.J., which has been serving as the city’s dredging consultant in recent years, has been awarded a $208,500 contract to oversee the 2020-2021 program.
Among its duties, ACT will also develop plans for an innovative “sediment trap” that will capture large amounts of muddy sediment in Snug Harbor, one of Ocean City’s most troublesome spots for muck and silt accumulating on the bottom of lagoons along the back bays.
Snug Harbor, a quaint lagoon off Bay Avenue between Eighth and Ninth streets, has experienced a chronic buildup of sediment over the years. It is a location that requires repeated dredging by the city to make it deep enough for bayfront homeowners to enjoy their boats.
“We have more accumulation in Snug Harbor than anywhere else,” Eric Rosina, vice president of ACT Engineers, explained in an earlier interview.
Hoping to reduce the amount of sediment building up, Ocean City has been approved by state and federal agencies to experiment with the sediment trap at the mouth of Snug Harbor north of the Ninth Street Bridge.
Although sediment traps have been used before at rivers, this will be the first of its kind tested in a tidal environment in New Jersey, Rosina said.
The dimensions of the proposed sediment trap are 335 feet long by 132 feet wide and 16 feet deep.
Essentially, it will be a large hole, or “bathtub,” dug in the bottom of the channel, that will capture the flowing sediment in the bay, Rosina said.