An Alabama company will undertake a massive cleanup and debris removal effort in waterways following Hurricane Sandy.
State authorities have removed more than 1,000 boats since the storm hit, but the remains of many others, plus debris resulting from everything from destroyed homes to derelict vessels previously undetected pose a threat to navigation as the spring boating season draws near.
Three companies were awarded contracts to clear New Jersey's waterways of debris, hopefully before spring arrives. Donjon Marine will be responsible for the northern portion of the state, from the New York border to Raritan Bay.
CrowderGulf, of Theodore, Alabama, will be responsible for the central portion of the state, from the Navesink River in Monmouth County to the southern tip of Island Beach State Park in Ocean County, including Barnegat Bay and its tributaries.
The southern portion of the state, all areas south of Barnegat Inlet including the Delaware Bay region, will be handled by AshBritt Inc., of Florida.
"As a result of Sandy, there is a significant amount of debris and sand in waterways across the state," the state Department of Environmental Protection said in a statement. "A large volume of debris has been identified."
The area with the worst structural damage was identified as northern Barnegat Bay, near the area where a 20 foot-deep inlet formed near Herbert Street in Mantoloking.
In all, 58 buildings and eight cars were washed into the bay, a state report said.
Even away from the area immediately adjacent to Mantoloking, "considerable sunken vessels and concentrations of other debris, such as trees, docks, furniture, and light outdoor structures in waterways" have been identified, the report said.
About 20 boats still remain in a virtual marine graveyard off Route 70 in Brick in a former supermarket parking lot turned into a DEP debris removal site following the storm.
Crews will use SONAR and other technologies to scan the bottom of Barnegat Bay and its tributaries, including the Manasquan River, of debris. Then, after the debris is hauled onto barges and then trucks for final removal, the channels will be dredged to remove excess sand brought into the waterways.
"The goal is to ensure that lesser impacted waterways can be open as much as possible for recreational use by the summer, and that some other waterways can be opened for restricted use, providing safety for the boating public, especially in Barnegat Bay," the DEP's statement said.
The department said it will handle 75 percent reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency as the cleanup effort gets underway.