Two Cape May County towns with the same problem — finding a suitable place for dredge spoils — are working together to come up with the solution.

Avalon and neighboring Middle Township have both been trying to dredge waterfront areas for years. As with many dredging projects in New Jersey, they have been held up by state regulations on disposing of the dredged materials.

Avalon has an approved dredge spoils site, called a confined disposal facility, or CDF, on Macchia’s Island west of Gravens Thorofare. The site can hold 156,000 cubic yards of material. The problem is it currently has 153,000 cubic yards in it from previous projects.

Avalon wants to add about 120,000 cubic yards from borough waterways, while Middle Township needs to find a place to put 38,000 cubic yards from lagoons in the township’s Avalon Manor section.

Putting the two projects together helped hatch a plan to empty Avalon’s CDF site to make way for the new materials, which have to be stored and dewatered before they can be cleared for new uses.

While some state CDF sites have been emptied before, it has never been done with a municipal site. Avalon has been busy getting permits, having the material tested and was expected to go out to bid Friday to find somebody to empty the site. The removal is expected to cost more than the dredging projects in the two towns.

“Nothing has been done of this size and scale,” said Borough Engineer Tom Thornton.

Testing of the material has shown it contains no toxins, and the material has been cleared for residential uses. Thornton said the borough is still waiting for a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but the state Department of Environmental Protection has signed off on the project. The removal involves building a temporary road across wetlands, but after the removal the road would be removed and the site fully restored.

If all goes according to plan, Thornton said, the site would be emptied by December 2014 and fully restored by May 2015.

Borough Administrator Andrew Bednarek said the company that wins the bid to remove the fill would be responsible for disposing of it. It may even have some value.

“The state made us go through two rounds of extensive, exhaustive testing. It cost six figures to do the tests. Both tests came back clean,” Bednarek said.

The remaining issue is in Middle Township, where Township Administrator Connie Mahon said officials are working on funding through a special assessment on waterfront homeowners. The township would bond the project but then collect the assessments over a 15-year period to pay off the bond.

“We would share the cost of dredging and emptying the CDF. We asked Avalon Manor residents to pay the bulk of the project through a special assessment,” Mahon said.

Details are still being worked out, such as which homes would pay the assessment. Mahon said it would probably only be on waterfront homeowners.

“It’s a work in progress,” she said.

The dredging has been needed for years in both towns, but the problem got worse when Hurricane Sandy drove sand into back-bay areas.

“A lot of these issues were accelerated by the storm, so we’re trying to help them out any way we can,” Mahon said.

Contact Richard Degener:

609-463-6711

Press copy editor since 2006, copy desk chief since 2014. Masters in journalism from Temple University, 2006. My weekly comics blog, Wednesday Morning Quarterback, appears Wednesday mornings at PressofAC.com.