By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
With the second winter storm of the week expected to dump heavy snow again on Sea Isle City, this hardly seems like the time to think about the summer boating season.
However, Sea Isle is preparing to resume a dredging project in mid-January that will clear muddy sediment from the lagoon that serves the municipal marina as well as other waterways popular with summer boaters.
The lagoons are a major part of the town’s identity as a boating, fishing and resort community dating back to Sea Isle’s founding in 1882 as a Venice, Italy-inspired seashore retreat by visionary real estate developer Charles K. Landis.
“Dredging our waterways ensures that boat traffic can flow smoothly regardless of the tide level, and that’s very important for a shore community such as ours, because we have many boaters, both commercial and recreational,” city spokeswoman Katherine Custer said Thursday.
Sea Isle describes the project as “maintenance dredging” to keep sediment from completely choking the lagoons and channels.
“Lagoon maintenance is one of many projects that the city oversees for the people of our community, along with the upkeep of other public areas and facilities throughout town,” Custer noted.
SumCo Eco-Contracting, of Peabody, Massachusetts, has a $944,892 contract to dredge the marina, as well as some of the busiest lagoons and channels along the back bays. Originally, the company was supposed to have the waterways and the marina dredged in plenty of time before the 2021 summer boating and fishing season.
City officials said SumCo encountered some equipment failures last year while it was dredging the lagoons. Parts of the project were delayed. As a result, dredging was halted before the bustling summer tourism season and a decision was made to resume the project in the winter.
Custer said dredging is expected to get underway sometime in mid-January once SumCo has its equipment delivered to the site.
In the first part of the dredging project, the contractor completed work last year in the channel next to the Yacht Club of Sea Isle City, located at the bay end of Venicean Road.
After the channel next to the yacht club was finished, dredging was done on the Intracoastal Waterway side of Venicean Road and other interior lagoons.
The bay area next to 38th Street and Sounds Avenue is also part of the dredging project.
Custer said the marina and some of its access points will be dredged in the work that will start this month.
The marina is regarded as one of the gems of the historic Fish Alley neighborhood, an enclave of family-owned restaurants and fishing boats rooted in Sea Isle’s beginnings as a small commercial seaport.
Tucked away in a lagoon along 42nd Place, the marina features 87 boat slips and has been improved in recent years with new landscaping, docks, a boardwalk, an open-air pavilion and public restrooms. All of the slips are rented year after year, reflecting the marina’s popularity.
Ron Fenning, who has had his 31-foot boat, “Teacher’s Pet II,” moored at the same slip at the marina since 1986, said there are times when the marina resembles a mudflat because of the buildup of sediment.
“Some of the boats on the inlet side sit in mud at low tide. A lot of times, it’s really shallow here,” Fenning said in an interview in October.
Fenning, a retired teacher from Churchville, Pa., enjoys spending summers on his boat while it is docked in Sea Isle. He said he and other boat owners at the marina are happy to hear that the lagoon will be dredged.