Dredging Operation Draws Ire From Southern Ocean County Neighborhood
A Southern Ocean County neighborhood is joining several environmental groups in a lawsuit against a proposed dredging project from Department of Environmental Protection.Environment New Jersey and the New Jersey Conservation foundation are joining a group of Eagleswood homeowners in filing an appeal against the DEP’s proposed construction of a dredge spoil facility on Dock Road.
The dredging project would remove at least 139,000 cubic yards of spoils from the nearby Westecunk Creek, which would be dumped at the end of Dock Road at a 26-acre site.
Environment NJ claims the proposal would make the dredge spoil site a Regional Dredge Spoil Facility, becoming a destination site for future spoil from across the region.
However Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey said this goes beyond a “NIMBY” (Not in My Back Yard) issue.
“Even if there were no residents near this site, it would still be a disaster. It’s going to be right along the bay and it’s a massive facility.”
The suit claims the DEP is violating the Coastal Area Facility Review Act (CAFRA) as well as the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA).
CAFRA applications requires applicants to submit detailed Environmental Impact Studies, but O’Malley said the DEP is claiming exemption from it because the site was used for a privately owned dredging operation in 1983.
The land was then abandoned and reverted back to the natural area before being purchased by the Department of Transportation in 2005. The site is surrounded by the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge and the Barnegat Bay.
“One year over thirty years ago, because some soil was placed on the property, suddenly this area which has been reverting back to nature is a dump,” said O’Malley.
The CZMA prohibits “confined disposal facilities”-what the spoil site would be considered- near landfills.
“Literally right across the street from where this dump is going to be, are residential homes,” said O’Malley.
Hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of dredge spoils are proposed for a site directly across narrow Dock Road from a line of homes, literally on the edge of Barnegat Bay-something that worries O’Malley in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
“Nothing in this project assumes there is going to be sea level rise or extreme weather along the Barnegat Bay.”
When contacted, the Department of Environmental Protection noted it can not comment regarding ongoing legal matters.