By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Boat owner Ron Fenning knows Sea Isle City’s municipal marina perhaps as well as anyone in town.
Since 1986, Fenning has had his 31-foot boat, “Teacher’s Pet II,” moored at the same slip at the marina on 42nd Place.
The 70-year-old retired teacher from Churchville, Pa., loves spending summers on his boat, but there are times when he says the marina resembles a mudflat.
“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 Sunday at the marina.
But after a lengthy delay, Sea Isle is planning to resume a nearly $1 million dredging project that includes clearing muddy sediment from the marina’s boat slips as well as the adjacent lagoon. Other popular local waterways will be dredged, too.
Fenning said he is happy to hear that the marina will be dredged.
“The lack of having your boat sitting on the mud is a good thing,” he said, smiling. “You don’t want to suck up soot in your engine.”
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.
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. 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 earlier this 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 later in the year.
George Savastano, the city’s business administrator, said dredging should get underway again in the late fall or early winter during the quieter off-season months.
The bay area next to 38th Street and Sounds Avenue is also part of the dredging project. At times during low tide, the area off 38th Street looks more like a mudflat than an active waterway.
In the first part of the dredging project, the contractor completed work earlier this 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 to be done on the Intracoastal Waterway side of Venicean Road and other interior lagoons.
Savastano, though, told City Council during a meeting Sept. 28 that there are some interior spots in the lagoon next to the yacht club that have become “pretty bad” and still must be dredged.
Lagoons and channels that are becoming filled with sediment are being deepened to make them more navigable for boating traffic.
Sea Isle describes the project as “maintenance dredging” to keep sediment from completely choking the lagoons and channels. The city previously dredged parts of the lagoon system in 1981, 1982, 1989, 1999 and then in 2012, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency that issued the permit for the current project.
The lagoons are a major part of the town’s identity as a boating, fishing and resort community. Visionary real estate developer Charles K. Landis was inspired by Venice, Italy, when he founded Sea Isle as a seashore resort in 1882 and began creating lagoons along the bays so he could sell more waterview property after the oceanfront sites were gobbled up.