Effects of Shore Dredging on Coastal Environment

Monmouth University prides itself on its ties to the ocean, but do we truly analyze exactly what is happening to this vast space?

Dredging.  It is a topic few know about, yet it affects all University students. 

For some it is a simple eyesore that is forgotten about after the fact; however, for surfers at the University, it can be a draining nuisance when a certain area forgoes the dredging process. 

To get a perspective that is not fueled by surf daydreams, John Tiedemann, Assistant Dean and Director of the Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy Program at the University, offered his take on the procedure.

Tiedemann, who has been an Ocean County local for more than 40 years, recognizes that dredging is necessary and used to help rather than harm the ocean.

He defines dredging as, “the removal of sediment that has accumulated in channels.”

Professor Tiedemann explained, “In harbors dredging is required to maintain shipping channels, in smaller ports dredging is required to maintain navigation channels for commercial and recreational vessels.”

Whether it is a small private dock, a public marina, a commercial waterway or our own beaches, dredging may be affecting you or someone you know in monumental ways.  

“The biggest issue with dredging is finding an appropriate location for disposal of the dredged material. If the material is clean (uncontaminated) it should be considered for beneficial use; if it is contaminated, it must be handled as a waste material and disposed of in an environmentally acceptable manner,” said Tiedemann. 

Unfortunately for the University community, an appropriate location for disposal cannot always be guaranteed. 

“Many times [dredging] is used to maintain the depth of navigable waterways. The sediment often contains toxic heavy metals which settle in the soil,” Amanda Billotti, a senior marine and environmental biology and policy student  said. “These contaminates such as mercury can bioaccumulate in animals and cause negative health effects on humans who consume them.”

As the University is home to a large surf community, dredging is a serious topic of interest. After talking to a Long Branch resident, Matt Pereira, I gained a local surfer’s perspective on the matter.

“Last winter while dredge pipes spewed sand on Asbury Park beaches, many including myself enjoyed fun waves on the north end while thousands birds to our south feasted on shellfish and other goodies near the shore and on newly deposited sand. We surfed for more than two hours while the pipes spit dark sand. Within two days, many of us who surfed that session were pretty ill with the nastiest stomach bug I’ve ever experienced,” said Periera.

Dredging undoubtedly can make it harder for surfers to find a spot, especially in NJ. NJ waves have always been an enticement for surfers; in fact, Ron Jon Surf Shop traces its roots to Long Beach Island, NJ. However, if poorly planned dredging continues, surfers will not be the only ones to notice the shifting shorelines. 

Beaches are fickle, and sand is constantly moving, so it is no surprise that dredging has added yet another variable to throw off surfers in their endless search for waves.  However, as Periera explained, a certain splendor lies in each and every spot, no matter how it has transformed over time.  

“I can recall surfing ‘mysto’ breaks only working for a day or hours perhaps, breaking due to dredge pipes setting up the beach at angles just right for greeting south swells. As the pipes dumped sand the temporary cove-like setups changed by the hour. Surfers in this area have realized they must adapt to the changing coast, checking that next beach to see if their favorite wave has returned or a completely new one has taken shape,” said Periera. “The only thing permanent is impermanence.”

There has never been another statement so true.  Everything changes, and not all change is bad. Tragedy can be found in change, yet so can beauty.  

Dredging isn’t the problem; it is simply an issue of change.  Finding a sense of security is nice, but it is not forever.  It is human to long for security, but being human is not always being secure.  Step out of your comfort zone, take a different path, you may find something totally new, something that you may totally love, maybe something that even dredging couldn’t touch.  

PHOTO TAKEN from aapa-ports.org