By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Some of Sea Isle City’s most popular waterways have been filling up with muddy sediment, making it hard for boats to navigate through shallow lagoons and channels during low tide.
However, the city is starting a $945,000 dredging project to deepen the waterways over the next two months to have them ready in plenty of time before the bustling summer boating and fishing season.
“Sea Isle City is a boating and fishing community. All you have to do is look at our bays during the summer months to see how popular boating is. You’ll see a huge number of boats here,” city spokeswoman Katherine Custer said.
The city’s dredging contractor was expected to start the project over the weekend, but was delayed by some technical problems, Custer said. She noted that the dredging work should get underway soon.
“The dredge is in position,” she said in an interview Monday.
The entire project is expected to be finished by mid-March.
Over the weekend, a big dredge was anchored in the channel in front of the Yacht Club of Sea Isle City, the first area for the project.
Jim Collins, the yacht club general manager, said there are times when boats actually get stuck in the mud during low tide.
Collins explained that the channel next to the yacht club should be 8 feet deep, but seems to be much shallower.
“We certainly have a need to get that dredging done,” he said in an earlier interview.
The yacht club has a total of 32 boat slips, but only 12 will be dredged as part of the project. The 12 slips overlook the waterway that will be dredged in front of the yacht club, Collins noted.
After the channel next to the yacht club is deepened, the dredging project will clear out sediment in spots on the Intracoastal Waterway side of Venicean Road, Custer said.
Later, the dredging work will focus on the canal between 43rd and 44th streets. The city will also dredge the lagoon that serves the Sea Isle municipal marina on 42nd Place, Custer said.
The bay area next to 38th Street and Sounds Avenue will also be dredged. At times during low tide, that area looks more like a mudflat than an active waterway.
As part of the program, the city will also work with the yacht club as well as homeowners on Venicean Road and 38th Street and Sounds Avenue to get their private boat slips dredged.
The yacht club and homeowners would pay for dredging their boat slips, but will be able to save money by piggybacking on the city’s dredging permits. The process would relieve them of some of the costs and headaches of doing the dredging work on their own, including finding a disposal site for the sediment.
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 Army Corps assessed the dredging project’s possible impact on endangered species, historic sites, water quality, general environmental effects and “other public interest factors” before awarding the permit.
Sea Isle’s 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.