While the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers does plan on dredging the New Jersey Intracoastal Waterway off Long Beach Island, there is no definitive start time, and the exact locations have not been set.
“We will be able to provide an update on summer/fall dredging plans in the mid-April timeframe,” Steve Rochette, public affairs officer for the Army Corps, Philadelphia District, said recently.
Rochette said the federal agency will survey the channel, but if any boaters have concerns about specific areas in the federal channel of the NJICW, they can share the information via email at PDPA-NAP@usace.army.mil.
In the meantime, the U.S. Coast Guard’s Aids to Navigation team is set to begin verifying shoaling areas they’ve previously identified as well as identify other potential shoaling areas, according to Senior Chief Boatswain’s Mate Elijah Reynolds, officer in charge of the Aids to Navigation team, based in Cape May.
The Army Corps awarded a more than yearlong contract to Barnegat Bay Dredging Co., based in Harvey Cedars, to deepen certain areas of the ICW from Cape May north toward LBI in an effort to help the Coast Guard maintain aids to navigation in one of the most traversed areas of the ICW. Barnegat Bay Dredging began working in the Cape May ferry area in November and is moving on to Ocean City, where it’s expected to be until the May timeframe, Rochette said.
The ICW is the 3,000-mile inland waterway running from Boston south along the Atlantic seaboard, around the southern tip of Florida and around the Gulf Coast to Brownsville, Texas. It runs through bay areas west of LBI.
Just last week, the Aids to Navigation team was in the waters off LBI to recovery a seasonal buoy that washed up on shore at Pullen Island near Little Egg Inlet, Reynolds said, adding his team had been unable to reach the buoy in the fall. It should have been replaced with an ice buoy, which is designed to handle cold conditions better.
The ice buoy is made from steel, while the seasonal buoys are generally made from foam and can be dragged under by ice, according to Reynolds. Salt water freezes at 29 degrees. For dangerous ice conditions to exist in the ICW, the temperature needs to consistently stay at 29 degrees for a prolonged period of time, night and day, he said.
With the mild winter, it’s unlikely an ice buoy is necessary, Reynolds said.
On Monday, Reynolds said the Aids to Navigation crew was able to recover the buoy and reset it about 70 yards from its initial coordinates, so it now rests in about 10 feet of water at low tide.
“It’s not uncommon to have to move a buoy because the waterway is changing,” he said.
Icy conditions, along with the age of the steel sitting in salt water, are responsible for broken channel markers that many in the local boating community attribute as the cause of two separate boating accidents in the ICW during Memorial Day weekend last year.
The Aids to Navigation team is responsible for ensuring more than 364 structures, including channel markers and buoys, are up to date and functional. Roughly 75 percent are located in the ICW in New Jersey, and a majority of the hazardous markers are located in local waters, Reynolds said.
In addition to federally maintained aids to navigation, the state Department of Transportation is responsible for managing New Jersey’s 215 navigation channels. The DOT’s Office of Maritime Resources assumed the state’s dredging program in 2014, nearly two years after Superstorm Sandy. The office works with the state Department of Environmental Protection to plan for and maintain its own aids to navigation structures, including seasonal stakes, floating buoys and fixed structures in state channels, according to Stephen Schapiro, deputy director of communications for the DOT.
– Gina G. Scala