By Freeholder Tom Arnone
On May 12, 2014, a massive fish kill began in the Shark River. Over the next 10 days, 310 tons of fish would die and wash ashore. According to the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, the cause of the fish kill was due to a large number of bait fish entering the river to seek refuge from bluefish and bass. The concentration of fish, coupled with warm and shallow waters, depleted the dissolved oxygen levels, resulting in the die-off. Despite that this event appeared to be a naturally occurring phenomenon, the die-off was a wake-up call that we should not take the health of the River for granted. While a number of factors working together may have contributed to the event, there are some people that believe this devastating ecological event could have been avoided with preventative maintenance, or more specifically, the long-overdue dredging of the Shark River.
I have been an ardent champion of dredging the Shark River for many years. It was during my 8-year tenure as Mayor of Neptune City that I became involved in the movement to remove the accumulated sediment from the River. I found the need to open the navigable channels and relieve the waterways from years of sediment build-up to be exceedingly important, as the benefits would have profound impacts on the regional economy, Jersey Shore tourism, and, of course, to the overall health of this dynamic ecosystem.
Moreover, I have witnessed overwhelming support for this dredging project and have worked with numerous interested and invested parties. Together, we have made considerable progress towards seeing this project through to fruition, unfortunately, finding a suitable dredge spoil site seems to be the current roadblock. However, as a Monmouth County Freeholder, I pledge my unwavering support of this project and commitment to finding a suitable resolve to accommodate the dredge spoils.
I would like to thank all those who assisted in the fish kill clean-up efforts. Unofficial reports approximate 1,500 workers from 17 various agencies participated. The Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office, Office of Emergency Management, and Department of Public Works & Engineering worked in coordination with NJDEP and municipal officials from the six impacted municipalities of Avon-by-the-Sea, Belmar, Neptune Township, Neptune City, Spring Lake and Wall Township. I would like to extend a personal thank you to Senator Jennifer Beck for her support and would also like to thank the NJ Department of Corrections for their participation and the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission and Lake Hopatcong Commission for providing equipment that assisted in the clean-up.
It is with great appreciation I commend all those who continuously volunteer or work towards protecting this valuable water resource.