SPOTSWOOD, NJ - Improving the condition of Devoe Lake is one project borough residents have been anticipating for a very long time. Back in July 2018, it was announced by Senator Linda R. Greenstein, Assemblymen Wayne P. DeAngelo and Daniel R. Benson that Spotswood was receiving a $2.5 million grant though the Department of Environmental Protection. The money was to be used to improve the quality of the lake as well as address flooding issues.
"This is a significant investment by the DEP in Devoe Lake,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex) at the time. “The Borough of Spotswood has sought funding for dredging the lake that will assist in the management of storm events. This is more than just an aesthetic improvement – it will benefit the surrounding areas at risk for flooding.”
Since that summer two years ago, residents have been waiting to hear when the project would actually begin. This week an announcement came from Borough Engineer Bruce Koch that phase one of the dredging project is set to start today.
Spotswood Mayor Ed Seely and the Spotswood Borough Council awarded the contract for the work on Devoe Lake to Sum-Co. Eco-Contracting or SCEC. Ted Faxon is the team leader for SCEC's project.
Koch made the announcement of the start of the long awaited project on Tuesday in a letter addressed to borough residents that will be posted on the borough's website. The first steps in the project include the drawdown or lowering of the surface elevation of the lake's water level. Fish living in the lake that will not have a negative impact on any nearby lakes will be collected and relocated.
Once that is completed, the next step involves building a diversion dam. When those steps are finished, the dredging process can begin. According to Koch's letter, the anticipated completion date for the initial phase of the project is the end of January. Faxon said in a memo to residents that the entire project is scheduled to be finished on or around February 20.
Residents can expect to see work going on at the lake Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Work will not be done on Sundays and holidays unless it is deemed necessary by the SCEC team Koch said in his letter.
"SCEC will do our best and is committed to minimize any inconvenience to the residence members of the community," Faxon said.
Once the dredge material is taken from the lake and stockpiled, it must be dried, which means SCEC crews will be removing the material away from Devoe Lave via trucks. The truck route is expected to be north along Devoe Avenue and them eastbound along Main Street to Route 18. SCEC expects to be able to have both lanes of traffic remain open on Main Street during the removal process. However, according to Koch a flagman may be needed at times to allow for the entry and exit of dump trucks on and off the site on Devoe Avenue.
According to Faxon's memo, 27,000 cubic feet of dredge material will be removed from Devoe Lake and transported off site using around 1,500 dump trucks. The removal process will take around a month.
Back in 1913, the borough was considered a summer vacation destination thanks to the opening of a health camp along the shores of Spotswood Lake. Today, Spotswood Lake is of course known as Devoe Lake and was actually purchased in 1930 from the U.S. Tobacco Co. for $500. Soon afterwards the lake was improved via a Works Process Administration Project, which was a part of President Roosevelt's New Deal that was created to form more jobs for Americans.
The 38-acre lake has fallen on hard times with large amounts of sediment accumulating on the bottom, making for flooding concerns during major storms. It is also considered by many borough residents to be an eyesore. Talk about improving the lake and its surrounding area has been a topic of conversation for local politicians.
When Mayor Seely campaigned in 2016 to become the borough's next mayor, he spoke of wanting to revitalize the Devoe Lake area to a spot where the community could hold family-friendly events. Spotswood mayoral candidate Jackie Palmer mentioned in a recent interview with TAPinto Milltown/Spotswood that she felt the condition of Devoe Lake was one of the major issues currently impacting the borough. Andrew Zaborney, a write-in candidate for Spotswood's mayoral race, also referenced the lake project in an interview with TAPinto.
"The history of the beauty of DeVoe Lake is as deep as the roots this town has been built on," Zaborney said of his intended goals if elected. "We must dredge. We must clear and clean it with the grants and additional supportive funding."