BRADLEY BEACH — On the surface, Sylvan Lake, separating the borough and Avon-By-The-Sea, looks healthy. But, according to a special commission, a look beneath the surface finds the lake in dire need of help.
A new technique for removing toxic materials from the lake could turn the lake’s fortunes around, for a fraction of the cost of dredging it, according to the Sylvan Lake Commission. The members hope that the technique, known as geotubing, will remove dangerous materials from the lake.
“Right now, I think if we just keep pushing, we are getting somewhere. This environmental plan we are working on could be a game-changer,” said Anne Politi, who chairs the commission. Other members include Bradley Beach Councilman Al Gubitosi and Avon-By-The-Sea Mayor Ed Bonanno.
While lake health generally requires a depth of eight feet, most of Sylvan Lake is about two to three feet deep. The lake has needed to be dredged for more than 50 years, Ms. Politi said.
The proposed plan involves a process called geotubing, in which tubes are installed along the western area of Sylvan Lake. Holes in the tube would then allow water to flow through, but trap contaminants and sediment. The tubing would then provide the structure for natural plantings, creating a living shoreline. The plantings would then help to treat and improve water quality.
The commission is working with Marty McHugh, a former borough resident and regional manager of SumCo Eco-Contracting; John Hansen, vice president of Engineering & Land Planning Associates; and Jim Shissass, a borough resident who is helping to secure funding for the project from a combination of state and federal sources, as well as environmental groups who are interested in seeing the success of the project.
The group is also working with the American Littoral Society, an environmental group that advocates for the conservation of marine habitats.
Mr. McHugh helped the commission to formulate the plan and said that if successful, the same technique could be applied to other coastal lakes in the region.
“We would like this to be a model, with these partners [Councilman Gubitosi and Mayor Bonannoand the Sylvan Lake Commission] this could be a model for this green infrastructure approach to coastal lake management and even inland management,” he said.
Before the project can move forward, the commission needs approval from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection [NJDEP]. Gaining it has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Ms. Politi said, the reaction has been “very positive about what we presented so far.”
Both borough’s earlier this year passed a resolution backing the proposed plan to show the NJDEP of their support for the project.
Improving water quality at coast lakes can be a costly project, and one that the borough has put off for years.
Soil sampling done in the past has shown traces of arsenic and lead in the lake bed, according to the commission, and the cost of dredging the lake and disposing of the contaminated soil, is estimated at about $10 million. In contrast, the proposed project may cost a few hundred thousand dollars.
It is not a cost that Bradley Beach could bear on its own, according to Councilman Gubitosi.
“People have kept saying for years, ‘We have to dredge the lake,’” the councilman said. “Well guess what? Our total budget for Bradley is an annual budget of about $10 million a year.”
“It used to be … people would be boating in the lake and they could do all these activities,” Councilman Gubitosi said. “Now, because of the siltation, the lake is almost full of sand and runoff. So it’s really a situation that we have to remedy.”
The commission has been infused with new energy by the work of revising and updating its 22-year-old charter with a new approach to funding the lake’s upkeep, which includes hydro spraying, waxing geese eggs to control the population and other projects.
Councilman Gubitosi said that Bradley Beach and Avon-By-The-Sea each contribute $3,000 annually to a trust account supporting the commission’s work, and the two municipalities are collaborating on revisions to its charter.
According to Ms. Politi, Mr. Gubitosi is helping the borough to make updates that will provide “a clear picture of our financial status that we have not had in a long time.”
“We can move forward with both towns participating and knowing exactly where our funds are, how much money do we need and how we are going to raise it.”
A previous proposal to fund lake maintenance with some of the revenue from parking meters along the lakefront was rejected by the state, according to Susan Rice, the Bradley Beach chief financial officer.
“The state actually denied that request,” Ms. Rice told the borough council on Aug. 25. The commission is also trying to get more residents in Bradley Beach involved. If residents would like to volunteer to assist the commission in the future, they may contact Ms. Politi at 732-361-7457.
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