NEW BRUNSWICK – It’s been 31 years since any significant maintenance has been done on Cheesequake Creek in Middlesex County.
That will change with the allocation of $4.1 million in federal funding through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) for the dredging of the creek, according to Congressman Frank Pallone (D-Middlesex, Monmouth).
The announcement on Feb. 21 comes after Pallone, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), and U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) urged the Army Corps to support the dredging project, citing the adverse impacts on navigation, safety, and the local economy resulting from the lack of maintenance for decades.
“This funding is great news for New Jersey and will greatly improve the ability of boaters to access and enjoy Cheesequake Creek and the Raritan Bay,” said Pallone in a release. “Efficient and safe waterways are critical for New Jersey’s economy, and this funding will make sure that the marinas, boaters, and fishing industry can operate effectively. I’m grateful to Senators Booker and Menendez for their support of this important project and I thank the Army Corps for its partnership in keeping the creek safe for navigation and open for business. I look forward to seeing the project getting underway this year.”
Menendez and Booker shared the congressman’s sentiments.
“For too long, marinas in the area have been losing business because boats can’t navigate the extremely low tides,” Menendez said. “Once this project is completed, maritime traffic will be able to resume normal flow, and it’ll boost the local economy, while ensuring the safety of boaters, marina crews and the surrounding environment.”
Booker said he has heard directly from marina owners, boaters, and local small businesses whose use and enjoyment of the creek has been negatively impacted by its shallow waters.
“Now that these funds have been secured, I’m hopeful that the Army Corps will work diligently to see the dredging through so the community can finally benefit from the creek’s full potential,” he said.
Sayreville Mayor Victoria Kilpatrick said marina and boat owners – in Sayreville and Old Bridge – have been calling on officials to dredge the creek for years.
“It has been far too long since individuals have been able to fully enjoy the waterway, and businesses have been negatively impacted,” she said. “The funding that has been secured for the project will provide much needed relief and will allow our businesses to bounce back for the benefit of boaters and the entire community of Sayreville. The time to get the job done is finally here.”
Cheesequake Creek, a shallow-draft recreational channel, serves as an inlet from the Raritan Bay near the south end of Staten Island, New York, behind the town of South Amboy for hundreds of recreational vessels that utilize the five public marinas on the creek. In recent years, sediment deposition in the creek has dramatically increased, impacting navigation, safety, and overall usage of the channel. The problem was exacerbated by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, resulting in large amounts of sediment being deposited in the waterway and further impacting its depth, according to officials.
The last maintenance dredging of the Cheesequake Creek was performed in 1989 by the state of New Jersey, but no further maintenance has been performed in the last three decades. The Army Corps estimates that there are currently between 6,000 and 6,500 cubic yards of sediment required to be dredged to meet that authorized depth, according to officials.
Funding for the project was included in the Operation and Maintenance Budget for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ fiscal year 2020 Work Plan. The Cheesequake Creek project competed for funding against dozens of shallow draft navigation projects nationwide. Federal maintenance of the waterway was originally authorized by Congress in 1880, and was last dredged by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1949, according to officials.