In the past three years, Ocean City has been spending millions of dollars to methodically clear out channels and lagoons clogged with mud and silt.
The ambitious program will resume this fall following City Council’s approval Thursday night of two dredging contracts for a series of shallow lagoons along the back bays.
City Business Administrator George Savastano said the dredging projects will boost the local economy by making Ocean City more attractive to boaters and by helping the bayfront marinas.
“It’s good to have navigable waterways throughout all of the lagoons. It’s good for our boating community and good for our economy,” Savastano said in an interview after the Council meeting.
One of the dredging projects will include the North Point Lagoon, the Waterfront Park & Marina and the Bayside Center. Charter Contracting Company LLC of Boston, the low bidder, was awarded a $1.4 million contract to dredge those areas.
In a separate project, Charter Contracting was awarded a $915,000 contract to dredge the Snug, Sunny and South Harbors, Glen Cove, Bluefish Lagoon and 7th Street. Charter was also the low bidder for this project.
The dredging program planned for this fall also includes what the city calls “maintenance projects” that will improve tidal flow and keep sediment from building up at the mouths of other lagoons.
In 2018, Ocean City became the first municipality in New Jersey to receive a state permit allowing it to dredge along the entire length of the island.
The permit from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection essentially gives the city blanket approval to dredge the bayfront from one end of town to the other. In the past, the city had to secure permits for each dredging project it had proposed.
Boat slip owners are able to piggyback on the city’s dredging permits for their own projects. Under the voluntary program, property owners still have to pay for dredging their slips, but the process relieves them of some of the costs and headaches of doing the work on their own, including finding a disposal site for the sediment.
Mayor Jay Gillian has repeatedly said that the dredging projects preserve property values, improve public safety, help the boat owners and marinas and protect the environment.
In other business Thursday, Council awarded a $565,843 contract to low bidder Act Global Americas Inc. of Austin, Texas, to install artificial turf at Ocean City Municipal Airport. The artificial turf will discourage birds from congregating on the airport grounds and causing a potential danger for planes.
The city is receiving a $618,764 grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to install the artificial turf in different areas of the airport, including both ends of the runway.
Artificial turf is supposed to make the airport less hospitable to seagulls and other birds, which graze next to the runway or make the bayside property their home.
Savastano explained that birds prefer natural grass, so by placing artificial turf near the runway the hope is that they will go elsewhere.
The airport’s expansive grounds next to the bay and marshlands make it a natural gathering spot for seagulls and other shorebirds.
Built in 1935, the airport’s claim to fame is that it is the only one in New Jersey located on a barrier island, giving tourist-dependent Ocean City another way to draw visitors to the beach resort.
The airport is only a few blocks from the beach. During the summer, it is common to see pilots and their families get off their planes toting their beach chairs and umbrellas.
Overall, the airport handles about 1,400 planes each year, with about 80 percent of the traffic arriving in the summer, the facility’s manager said last year.