‘Archaeological discoveries’ halt ferry project temporarily



SOUTH AMBOY — Work has temporarily ceased on the ferry project, as there have been some archaeological discoveries that warrant more investigation before work can resume.

Camille Tooker, business administrator, shared that information at the Feb. 1 City Council meeting.

“We had some substantial historical finds at the excavation site,” she said, explaining that there is an existing memorandum of agreement between the city and the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).

As per that agreement, an archaeological firm, in this case Hunter Research, was stationed at the site in case any discoveries were made, and if and when anything was discovered, SHPO and other state agencies were then notified.

As such, the remediation effort, which was a week and a half from completion, stopped last week. Tooker said if this discovery had been made earlier in the project, workers could have moved to another section of the site.

Tooker said Hunter is developing a plan of action.

“First they have to determine what it is they found,” Tooker explained said. “They have a good idea.”

Preliminary analysis points to a turntable used to turn railroad engines and railroad bed stones. Various railroads have run through South Amboy, including the Camden & Amboy Railroad.

Tooker said the area around the discoveries now has to be examined further. Hunter also will have to follow that rail bed to see how far it goes, Tooker said. Once the SHPO approves Hunter’s plan, work can continue.

“It may delay us a little, but we have to all remember that it’s very important historically. Nobody really thought we were going to find anything like this,” Tooker said.

Tooker said the New Jersey Department of Transportation has been in touch with the city regarding the findings and the need to halt work to affirm their commitment to moving ahead with the project as soon as possible.

Councilwoman Christine Noble asked if the city owned whatever is discovered at the site.

“Well, it is our property,” Henry replied.

“As long as it’s not anything we don’t want,” Councilman Brian McLaughlin joked.

However, Tooker said it may not be so clear-cut, depending on what it is and how it would need to be preserved.

McLaughlin also asked who the ferry operator would be once the ferry is up and running.

Tooker said there is a letter of intent from NY Waterway, but Eric Chubenko, executive director for the South Amboy Redevelopment Agency, said an official request for proposals would be done once the project is further along.