Toms River waterways are among those planned for cleanup by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the township has announced.
Township officials met with state DEP representatives last week to discuss waterway debris removal. Along with the lagoons, rivers, and streams to be cleaned is the Barnegat Bay, a waterway that township officials have said is causing continued flooding following Superstorm Sandy.
"This is an unprecedented effort on the part of the DEP," said Mayor Thomas Kelaher in a statement. "In the past, the DEP didn’t acknowledge responsibility for the lagoons, so I'm pleased that our many lagoons will be included in the state's dredging project of debris removal."
In addition to calls for action from the township to clean the bay, the Ocean County Freeholders have also voiced their concerns about debris in the waterway. According to the township, the debris is defined as "anything that ended up in the waterways from Hurricane Sandy, inclusive of floating and submerged objects."
"This will include boats, cars, parts of homes, contents of homes and businesses, structural debris and sand," a township statements reads.
Kelaher is "delighted" with the steps being taken by the state, as it will also allow Toms River residents to participate in safe boating outings. Gov. Chris Christie has set a goal of removing 75 percent of all waterway debris by the start of June, according to the township.
The governor said in his State of the State address that cleaning up the state's waterways would be a priority as New Jersey continues to recover from Sandy. Christie said that 1,400 vessels were abandoned or sunken throughout the state. In Mantoloking, 58 buildings and eight cars were washed into the Barnegat Bay.
"We will remove this debris and dredge the bay to reduce the risk of flooding and to improve the health of the bay," he said in his address.
Debris removal contracts are expected to be awarded to three entities this week, according to the township. A map of the 11 waterway zones in the state is available online — Toms River is within zones five and six.
Debris will be removed first, and items posing an "imminent health and safety hazard" will be a priority. Sand will be dredged and the state DEP has agreed to have the sand pumped back on to public beach areas and private areas where public easements exist.
"Kelaher has advised the NJDEP that Toms River wants to participate to the maximum extent that it can in the sand recovery for their beaches," the township said in a statement.
The state Department of Transportation is conducting sounding and underwater surveying to determine what sand and debris must be removed.
"The [Federal Emergency Management Agency] standard is to measure the 'eligible debris' to be removed by virtue of the greatest draft of the typical boat that utilizes the waterway, plus two feet at low tide," reads a township statement. "This would appear, on the surface, to be a liberal interpretation which would result in the greatest amount of debris and sand being removed."