By Jacqueline L. Urgo
24 March 2013
MANTOLOKING, New Jersey (Philadelphia Inquirer) – Buddy Young and his crew wait pensively on a dock, two-way radios in hand, for a "picker" boat a half-mile out on Barnegat Bay to report on precisely what the long-arm boom mounted to the front of the vessel managed to pull from the murky waters this time.
Even from so far away, it's obvious when the robotic, dinosaurlike jaws-of-steel pull a mud-covered car or the wall of a house from the six-foot-deep bay.
But sometimes the distance makes the type of debris less immediately identifiable.
That's the case on this recent morning as Young and a dozen other employees of CrowderGulf, an Alabama-based recovery and debris management company, work in the bay just off Mantoloking.
Their mission, at the direction of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, is to clear obstacles dumped in the water by Superstorm Sandy before the summer boating season begins in June.
The cleanup cost will depend on how much debris is collected, officials said, but it will likely be in the tens of millions.
"OK, that looks good," Young murmurs into the radio as what appears to be a mangled portion of stairs from a wooden dock, amalgamated with a bit of crumpled sailboat canvas, is placed on the barge's flat bed.
Earlier in the day, the pickers, following a map of floating yellow markers placed by a team from Matrix New World Engineering of Florham Park, yanked a car out of the water and floated it to the shore.
Partnered with CrowderGulf, Matrix surveys the bay using side-scan sonar to find submerged objects and marks their locations. The engineers' acoustic imaging system is so precise that it can produce a 3-D image of an object as small as 10 inches across, depending on the conditions in the bay, said Nick Pratt, a CrowderGulf supervisor.
Whatever is pulled out - a vehicle, front door, a kitchen sink - likely ended up on the bottom of the bay thanks to the ferocious Sandy, which on Oct. 29 sent three-story-tall waves out of the Atlantic Ocean over this narrow northern Ocean County resort town and into the bay.
When it was over, 60 houses from Mantoloking alone, plus dozens of cars and boats, hundreds of trees, and thousands of other objects, had washed out to sea or were deposited into the bay and the Intracoastal Waterway, creating boating hazards.
Because of Sandy and its destruction, the state has hired a team of contractors to remove such obstacles from coastal and tidal waterways along New Jersey's 127 miles of coastline, from Bergen to Cape May Counties and up the Delaware Bay to the Delaware Memorial Bridge. [more]