Residents up and down the Jersey Shore have noticed a disturbing trend during the three months since Superstorm Sandy pummeled the coastline — more flooding after relatively minor storms.
Officials are hoping things will improve in the next few months as a massive debris cleanup of Barnegat Bay and waterways from Raritan Bay all the way down to the bottom of the state gets underway, Ocean County Administrator Carl W. Block said.
"The target is to have 75 percent of the debris out by June," he said. "While it's an ambitious target, they are trying to make sure there's a summer season."
Block attended both of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's sessions on "wet debris" held at the Ocean County Administration Building Thursday for local and county officials.
What is "wet debris?" Basically it's anything that was funneled into the bay, tidal rivers and even lagoons by the massive storm surge from Superstorm Sandy, Block said.
"They will go after sunken boats, cars, whole houses," Block said. "They hope in three weeks to have barges out there picking up debris."
Once the larger items have been located and removed, the bay will be dredged to remove sand that has shoaled in places it doesn't belong and hinders navigation, he said.
Cleaning up waterways affected by Sandy will be a joint effort between the state and the Army Corps of Engineers. The Army Corps will handle the main channels and the Intercoastal Waterway.
The state has assumed responsibility for all other waters, including bays, tidal rivers and even lagoons. The state will go out to bid for three contractors, who will break the state up into 11 sections, Block said.
"The state has assumed full responsibility," he said.
Florida-based AshBritt - a debris removal firm hired by the county in mid-November to do a shared services agreement with municipalities for Sandy-related debris removal - has already done some Barnegat Bay debris removal, Block said. The contractor was also used for debris in Belmar and elsewhere throughout the state.
He expects AshBritt to bid on the bay cleanup project as well. Contractors will use side-scan sonar and high-resolution cameras to map the debris, so bigger items can be easily identified.
"They can even identify a refrigerator in the bay," he said.
State officials said New Jersey had 1,400 vessels — boats, cars and more — were sunk or abandoned in its waterways. In Mantoloking alone, 58 buildings and 8 cars were washed into Barnegat Bay.