The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded a contract for the dredging of Cheesequake Creek, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-6) announced on July 29.
Work is expected to begin this month and take about one month to complete.
“This is great news and another step in the right direction to improve the ability of boaters to access and enjoy Cheesequake Creek and the Raritan Bay,” Pallone said in a prepared statement. “Efficient and safe waterways are critical for New Jersey’s economy. The dredging will make sure that the marinas, boaters, and the fishing industry can operate effectively. I thank the Army Corps for its partnership and look forward to seeing the completed project.”
Cheesequake Creek is a shallow-draft recreational channel between Sayreville and Old Bridge that serves as an inlet from the Raritan Bay for hundreds of recreational vessels that use the five marinas on the creek. In recent years, sediment deposition in the creek has dramatically increased, impacting navigation, safety, and overall usage of the channel, according to the statement. 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.
This project will be the first maintenance dredging in three decades. 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 since then. The Army Corps estimates that 10,000 cubic yards of sand and gravel will be dredged to fully restore the authorized 5-foot-deep federal navigation channel, according to the statement.
It has been 31 years since any significant maintenance has been done on Cheesequake Creek.
The announcement of the $4.1 million in funding on Feb. 21 came 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.
Menendez and Booker shared the congressman’s sentiments at the time.
“For too long, marinas in the area have been losing business because boats can’t navigate the extremely low tides,” Menendez had 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 had 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 had said.
Back in February, 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 had 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.”
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.