OCEAN CITY — Snug Harbor lives up to its name.
At low tide, boats sometimes can’t enter or leave the shallow lagoon, to the north of the Route 52 causeway. For years, sediment has accumulated there rapidly, and at least $1.4 million has been spent since 2015 dredging the harbor.
Now, the family resort town is proposing a more long-term solution: a one-acre sediment trap at the mouth of the harbor that would capture sand and prevent it from building up — an alternative to costly, frequent dredging projects.
A sediment trap is a bowl-shaped hole that fills in with muck over the span of up to six years, said Junetta Dix, environmental director for ACT Engineers, the firm contracted by Ocean City to complete the project.
“Dredging is expensive. It’s bothersome to the residents who have to find a final disposal site. ... It disturbs the water column and has the potential to disturb the environment,” Dix said. “The goal is to reduce dredging to the maximum extent practical.”
ACT Engineering submitted the latest plans for the 335-foot-long, 132-foot-wide project to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. If permits are granted, Dix said, it would be the first sediment trap in Ocean City, where a bustling summer tourism industry depends on navigable waters.
More than 18,500 cubic yards would be dredged, placed on barges and taken to either the 2nd Street Marina or a confined disposal facility under Route 52. From there, the spoils would be trucked throughout South Jersey to be reused.
The proposed work would begin in September and end in March. Dix did not know how much the sediment trap would cost.
“(Snug Harbor) is a dead end, so the sediment doesn’t have anywhere to go,” Dix said. “So it piles up.”
Sean Barnes, 60, a Snug Harbor resident, said sediment buildup at the lagoon was amplified after construction of the new, $500 million Route 52 causeway was completed in 2012. That year, he said, there was no water in the harbor at low tide. Jump in for a swim, and you’d sink into muck.
The situation has improved dramatically since then, Barnes said, but he still can’t take his sailboat out during low tide, when there’s about 2 feet of water at the mouth of Snug Harbor. Navigating the waterway remains a challenge.
He hopes the sediment trap is a more long-term solution that may keep excavators out of the scenic harbor for a few seasons.
“People are using the lagoon again ... but the mouth keeps filling, despite best efforts,” Barnes said. “I’m very happy the city is being proactive.”
Boaters throughout Ocean City have long dealt with sediment-choked waterways. In January, officials extended the dredging season to the end of March to give businesses and homeowners more time to clear their channels.
The state Department of Environmental Protection bars dredging from April to June to protect the ecosystem of the Great Egg Harbor Bay. The season reopened July 1.