The ongoing process of removing debris from the floor of Barnegat Bay will eventually evolve to the next step in the overall cleanup effort: removing sand that got pushed into the waterway.
That phase of the project should begin in the next four to eight weeks, said New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Robert Martin during a conference call with a number of reporters Tuesday.
"While we do the debris removal, we are already putting plans in place and getting permitting with the Army Corps of Engineers to do the dredging activity," said Martin. "I'm hoping within the next month or two we can start doing that dredging as well."
The bay is steadily being cleared of large pieces of debris left over from Superstorm Sandy resting on the bottom, but debris floating at or just below the waterline is still a concern, said Martin, as well as shoaling that has developed due to sand having been pushed into the bay during the storm.
One of the most significantly affected areas is near the Mantoloking Bridge between Mantoloking and Brick, where a full breach created an inlet that split Ocean County's northern barrier island in half.
"The game plan is to move as much as of that sand as possible from the bay to the ocean," Martin said.
Officials have told Patch that the project of moving excess sand in the bay to the oceanfront could be accomplished in several ways. Martin said the DEP is investigating running a pipe over Route 35 to literally pump sand from the bay onto the island, then sift it before placing it on the beach to help shore up the dunes.
Chris Nelson, Mantoloking Borough's special counsel for storm recovery, spoke this week about a plan that would involve the sand being scooped from the bottom of the bay and desposited in trucks, before being sifted and brought back to the beachfront.
"Our goal is to get the sand from the bay back on the beach," said Nelson, adding that he hoped the project could be completed by the end of June.
Brick Mayor Stephen C. Acropolis said it is Brick Township's intention to use dredged bay sand at the beach as well, once it is sifted and deemed safe.
Acropolis said areas where there were major issues with sand intrusion such as near the Mantoloking Bridge and Gunner's Ditch, the channel that runs west of the Intracoastal Waterway at the confluence of the bay and the Metedeconk River, would likely be dredged.
Martin said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has estimated as much as 10 million cubic yards of sand were deposited into the bay, a figure the DEP is still working to validate.