BY ADELE SAMMARCO
When Hurricane Sandy ripped across the New Jersey coastline, it not only knocked down power lines, trees and destroyed homes, it also churned over the ocean with such intensity and ferocity, that it became a dumping ground for tons of other debris like fiberglass from boats and metal from cars.
Soon after the Superstorm, Governor Chris Christie hired a Florida-based firm to haul away what was left behind, causing a firestorm of controversy over whether Ashbritt was fairly chosen.
Now, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection, AshBritt, Inc. will be in charge of clearing debris from the waters off the southern most portion of the state, including south of the Barnegat Inlet and the Delaware Bay region. This in addition to what Ashbritt has already been removing from the ground.
Additionally, two other debris removal companies have been thrown into the mix.
The DEP says CrowderGulf of Alabama will be responsible for removing debris from the waters off the central part of the state, from the Navesink River in Monmouth County to the southern tip of Island Beach State Park in Ocean County, which includes Barnegat Bay and all its tributaries.
Donjon Marine, with offices in both New York and New Jersey, will be responsible for the northern portion of the state, from the New York border to Raritan Bay.
So far since the storm hit back in late October, state authorities have removed more than 1,000 battered boats, yet remnants of other vessels still remain capsized and floating around, threatening navigation for the upcoming spring boating season.
The area with the worst structural storm damage, according to state officials, has been northern Barnegat Bay near where a 20 foot-deep inlet formed in Mantoloking in the wake of the storm’s fury, flooding the tony seashore town. The report cited as many as 58 buildings and eight cars were washed away into the bay.
The DEP report points out "considerable sunken vessels and concentrations of other debris such as trees, docks, furniture, and light outdoor structures in waterways", all of which are considered hazardous and must be removed immediately.
In Brick Township, nearly two dozen boats still remain in what’s been described as a “virtual marine graveyard”. A former supermarket parking lot off Route 70 has been turned into a DEP debris removal site since the storm where crews are working overtime to clear the damage.
SONAR is being used to detect debris embedded at the bottom of Barnegat Bay and its tributaries, including the Manasquan River. After the debris is hauled onto barges and trucks for removal, officials say channels will be dredged to remove all the excess sand that was brought into the waterways.
The DEP says its goal is to ensure that lesser impacted waterways can be open as much as possible for recreational use by this summer.