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Assembly Panel Approves Conaway & Singleton Measure to Monitor Impact of Dredging Activity on Delaware River Communities

As the debate over where to dump dredged spoils from the Delaware River continues in Burlington County, an Assembly panel on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Herb Conaway, Jr., M.D. and Troy Singleton (both D-Burlington) that would require the state to monitor the impact dredging would have on neighboring communities.

The bill (A-1822) would require the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), in consultation with the Department of Transportation (DOT), to study the vibrations caused by vehicles traveling along routes used for transporting material dredged from the Delaware River. The study would include an analysis of the effects of such vibrations on residential and commercial buildings, roads, and other infrastructure.

“Unfortunately, our communities are no stranger to the dredging process, which has been going on intermittently for decades,” said Conaway. “But given the changing face of our towns over the last several decades, it’s important that this issue be studied carefully. Not only does the dumping of dredged spoils carry potential environmental hazards, but it may cause untold harm to homes and recreational areas if an estimated 15,000 truck trips are needed to haul away roughly 300,000 cubic yards of spoils.”

“In the interest of protecting our residents, this entire process must be examined thoroughly,” said Singleton. “Given the age of many of the post-World War II homes in this area, and the proximity of the new park and sports fields, we can’t simply sit back and allow this process to invade our communities without a thorough assessment. We need to make sure we do everything we can to protect public health, safety and open space while growing our economic development interests.”

The sponsors noted that the issue of where to dump the dredged river spoils has been of paramount concern to communities in their district, particularly Delanco, which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has been eyeing as a potential dumping site. Local officials have expressed serious concern over the plan, which would impact the site known as the Delanco “Dunes” where a passive recreation park was recently completed. Dumping on the site would effectively eliminate the new nature trails and threaten the adjacent youth sports field and the surrounding residential homes.

Within 18 months after the date of enactment of the bill into law, the DEP would be required to prepare and submit a written report to the legislature on the study. The DEP would also be required to make recommendations concerning the transportation of such materials and include a summary and analysis of any similar or related studies conducted by the federal government, other state or local governments, or private entities.

The bill would also require the DEP to analyze the financial impacts of transporting material dredged from the Delaware River, including any potential financial loss to businesses or the impact on liability insurance, and make recommendations, if appropriate.

Under this bill, the DEP would be entitled to call to its assistance and avail itself of the services of the employees of any state, county, or municipal department, authority, board, bureau, commission, agency, or entity, or of Rutgers or any other public institution of higher education in the state, as may be required to conduct the study and analysis.

The bill was released by the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee.