Wheels begin to turn for the first-ever dredging of Little Egg Inlet. New Jersey environmental officials did not offer a project start date, but said that they expect to open it up for contractor bidding in April.


The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)'s Division of Coastal Engineering is organizing permit applications, designs and contract specs for what's described as a multi-million-dollar effort to clear shoals from the inlet that have developed into hazards for boaters between southern Long Beach Island and Brigantine.

About 1,500,000 cubic yards of sand, primarily on the ocean side, will be carved away to create a 25-foot-deep channel, and moved to restore storm-depleted beaches on southern Long Beach Island, DEP said.

For now, the U.S. Coast Guard removed marker buoys in the channel, amid concerns of below-surface navigational hazards. The Guard issued a navigate-at-your-own-risk warning to boaters aiming for lower Barnegat Bay, Great Bay and the Intracoastal Waterway.

DEP said that federal control of the waterway dictated the Coast Guard's efforts to mark the deepest and safest routes, rather than state-funded dredging.

However, authorities said, the shifting shoals have reached densities that have extended the navigable channel to as much as a mile offshore, and channels as shallow as six feet below mean sea level.

Officials said that they do not expect the project to impact the Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge nearby, or marine life migration patterns. Permits will be sought through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

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