Long-awaited Cheesequake Creek dredging expected to begin this summer
Sayreville and Old Bridge marina owners’ tireless efforts to have Cheesquake Creek dredged are finally paying off.
U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-6th) announced the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded a contract for the dredging, which is expected to begin as early as August and take one month to complete.
Burnham Dredging Co. of Salem, Massachusetts, will complete the project.
"We're very excited," said Theresa Lockwood, who along with her siblings, co-owns Lockwood Boat Works in Sayreville. "We've been working on this for so long – bringing it to anybody and everybody's attention. … It's getting worse and worse. We were running a little scared because of COVID. We thought they might reallocate the money and it would go away. What a relief. It's great."
The business will be celebrating its 75th anniversary next year, Lockwood said, and "It couldn't have a better present for us."
“This is great news and another step in the right direction to improve the ability of boaters to access and enjoy Cheesequake Creek and the Raritan Bay,” Pallone said in a statement. “Efficient and safe waterways are critical for New Jersey’s economy. The dredging will make sure that the marinas, boaters and the fishing industry can operate effectively. I thank the Army Corps for its partnership and look forward to seeing the completed project.”
In February, Pallone along with New Jersey Democratic Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez announced the Army Corps allocated $4.1 million in federal funding for the dredging.
Cheesequake Creek is a shallow-draft recreational channel between Sayreville and Old Bridge that serves as an inlet from the Raritan Bay for hundreds of recreational vessels that use the five marinas on the creek.
In recent years, sediment deposition in the creek has dramatically increased, impacting navigation, safety and overall usage of the channel. The problem was exacerbated by superstorm Sandy in 2012, resulting in large amounts of sediment being deposited in the waterway and further impacting its depth.
This project will be the first maintenance dredging in three decades. The last maintenance dredging of Cheesequake Creek was performed in 1989 by the state, but no further maintenance has been performed since then. The Army Corps estimates that 10,000 cubic yards of sand and gravel will be dredged to fully restore the authorized 5-foot-deep channel.
Lockwood isn’t the only marina that’s been impacted. Others such as Brown’s Boat Yard and Morgan Marina, both in Sayreville, and Raritan Marina in the Laurence Harbor section of Old Bridge, also have been pushing for the dredging.
For years the owners have been pleading with government officials to dredge the channel, but nothing had been done. The owners said they were losing business as boat owners were finding the waters increasingly difficult to navigate.
Only one side of the channel is passable for boats needing to clear a jetty and two bridges, which has resulted in damage and collisions, marina owners said.
The marina owners also have said that it's a safety issue because people walk out to the middle of the jetty during low tide. Due to the boat traffic under the bridge, vehicle traffic on Route 35 is impacted because the bridge must stay open longer to allow for the boats to exit and enter.
In an interview last year with MyCentralJersey.com, Lockwood said sailboat owners have an extremely limited time frame during which they can use their boats because they need to enter and exit the channel during high tide, which is every 12 hours.
"They have to stay out for 12 hours rather than take a quick sail and come back," Lockwood said.
She also said because of shoaling, which builds sand and creates shallow waters, boaters must stay to one side of the channel during low tide.
Power boats also have had issues during low tide, marina owners said.
"It took a long time," said Allen Brown with Brown's Boat Yard. "It's been going on since Sandy. We thought in the spring with the virus they were going to cancel it. I'm happy that it's finally going to be done."
"It's a wonderful thing that we're finally getting this attention to dredge the channel here," said Joe Walter with Morgan Marina. "We were persistent, and they finally listened and we're very, very grateful that they did. Things are looking up."
"We waited a long time to finally have that particular area dredged to hopefully bring back the boating industry and give some much-needed relief to those businesses over there, who have suffered for so long," Sayreville Mayor Victoria Kilpatrick said. "It's great to finally have some positive news coming into Sayreville at a time when we really need it."
"It needs to be dredged and I fully support the project," Old Bridge Mayor Owen Henry said. "It will be great for the local economy."