RANDOLPH, NJ - In the 30 years since the last dredging, Shongum Lake accumulated 25 football fields-worth of sediment and silt, according to John Ragan, engineer for the Shongum Lake Property Owners Association. The SLPOA representatives requested Township Council to be the co-applicant on the loan for dredging, and the council approved their request.
“This is a low-interest loan [from the DEP], but the association is unable to apply for such a loan without the township being a co-applicant,” explained attorney Richard Marcickiewicz. “The township was a co-applicant with Shongum Lake back in 2005. At that time, we entered into an agreement with the township which included… the preconditions that it wouldn’t cost the township any money.”
In 2005, the SLPOA requested the loan in order to pay for dam restoration, and the association covered all fees and expenses involved with the application. After approval, only Shongum Lake property owners with lake rights were responsible for payment, not the general Randolph taxpayer.
Like the dam project, Shongum Lake homeowners with lake rights will have the loan payment as part of their property taxes. If the owners do not pay the fee, the township can place a lien on their property. Currently, homeowners are paying a flat amount of $112 per month to pay off the dam.
“About 30 years ago, Shongum Lake underwent partial dredging, and recent studies… have shown that sediment is accumulating in Shongum lake,” began engineer John Ragan. “Estimates have ranged somewhere between 140,000 to 190,000 cubic yards of sediment, which is… roughly the size of a football field stacked 25 feet high.”
If the council chose to approve the resolution for the co-application, the SLPOA would then have a special meeting to get substantial support of the project from the property owners, Ragan said. If the association is unable to get an acceptable level of support, they will withdraw the application.
“Dredging is important to keep the water body useful, and the water quality will be improved by the dredging process,” Ragan continued. “So there will be multiple benefits to the project for the community and for the watershed.”
Priority ranking for these projects is another obstacle for receiving the DEP loan. Dams receive a higher ranking than dredging.
“It’s my understanding that the DEP is expecting a lot of dam applications, so we may be shut out of the process anyway,” Ragan added.
Because the application process presents no risk to the council, they decided to approve this request. However, they expressed concern about the amount homeowners will need to pay and if any preventative measures have been taken for the future.
“This 20-year loan [for dam restoration] is from 2005, so they’re still paying $1000 a year for it, and now you’re going to add this new assessment?” asked councilmember Joanne Veech.
Ragan said they would not set an amount for this project until speaking with the homeowners to determine how much to spend on the project. Since they will not dredge the entire lake at once, they can request a loan in an amount approved by the homeowners.
Veech also asked about preventative care, specifically filters to keep silt and organic materials from flowing into the lake and building sediment. “Has that made a difference, and what else can we do as a community, a township, so that it lessens the burden?” she asked.
“There is significant accumulations of organic materials that are being trapped by the filters and are being collected, so those preventative measures are reaping benefits,” Ragan explained.