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N.J. Boating Accident Numbers Hold to Norms in 2013

Waterway cleanup essentially done statewide as sediment removal about a quarter complete

In a summer at the Jersey Shore marred by lagging interest in tourism, minimal beach badge revenue and residents lacking funding to rebuild their homes damaged in Superstorm Sandy, there was one part of the so-called worst case scenario that didn't hold water – a spike in boating accidents.

Despite an early season campaign by the boating industry to allay trepidation among boaters that debris washed into local waterways could pose safety hazards, fears lingered through much of the summer as work to clean waterways – which began last winter – entered its home stretch.

Though some areas were identified as having experienced increased shoaling – and sandbars shifting positions from a year earlier – no serious accidents tied to storm debris were reported all season long, state officials said.

Boating accidents, the numbers show, have remained at seasonal norms through the summer.

By Aug. 16, a total of 85 vessel accidents had been reported, causing 29 injuries and five fatalities, New Jersey State Police Sgt. Adam Grossman said.

That compares to a total of 115 accidents in 2012, which caused eight deaths. Several previous years yielded somewhat higher accident totals in New Jersey, including a spike to 140 accidents in 2008 which claimed 10 lives, according to statistics compiled by the U.S. Coast Guard.

"As the season went on, people became more comfortable," said Melissa Danko, Executive Director of the Marine Trades Association of New Jersey, an industry group that primarily represents marinas and others in the boating business.

Many marinas reported increased sales as the season went on, Danko said, as boaters' confidence in the safety of local waterways increased.

Debris Removal Essentially Complete

By the time the bulk of waterway debris removal efforts had been completed in early summer, state officials said the number of floating or submerged objects being reported to authorities conformed to about the average for any summer.

Likewise, there were few reports of debris washing up on ocean beaches, Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Ragonese said, and no injuries had been reported as Labor Day weekend began.

"We've gotten 99 percent of what's been identified," said Ragonese, describing the current role of waterway debris removal contractors as mostly an "on call" scenario.

The small amount of debris that remains is mainly washed up in marshy areas, officials have said.

In all, 96,000 cubic yards of debris have been removed from waterways statewide since the cleanup effort began last winter.

State crews are now focusing their efforts on removing sediment that was deposited by the storm in channels, riverbeds and certain areas of back bays. About 244,000 cubic yards of sediment has been removed thus far, Ragonese said, out of 900,000 total – about 26 percent.

"Everything else, basically, is one the done side," he said.

Sediment removal is expected to be completed by the end of October.

The entire waterway debris and sediment removal is expected to cost about $122 million, said Ragonese, an amount for which the state is hoping to be 100 percent reimbursed by the federal government.
dainty September 02, 2013 at 03:09 PM
IF boating accidents numbers are the same as last year thats TERRIBLE! There was a minimal boating season this year.
john doe September 02, 2013 at 11:05 PM
"stronger than than the shore"
Joey Joe September 11, 2013 at 05:11 PM
@MFMW - I'm sure there were a fair share of drunks out there this year like every year....just less targets for them to hit... Funny how me and the wife would love to leave the dock on a clear night about 8:30 PM and mosey out to one of our favorite spots - drop anchor, open a bottle of Vino, have a few snacks and fall asleep together under the stars.... The twinkle of the lights on shore, the moon rising and just the total piece and quiet was really terrific.... Those days are gone now, but will never be forgotten.... After one too many close calls with drunks invading our space in "go fasts" we decided that our lives were worth more than the piece and quiet. Its been at least 5 years since we spent the night out on the Bay, but those great memories will be with us forever.

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