Frequently Asked Questions about the Canal Dredging Project (updated April 2016)
Why is this dredging project necessary? The D&R Canal is fed by numerous streams and overland flow along its 60-mile length. Along with the rain water runoff, these streams and overland flows deposit sediment into the Canal. Removal of this sediment is needed so that the Canal can continue to provide drinking water for millions of residents in central New Jersey, as well as recreational uses like canoeing and fishing. The dredging will restore the Canal sections to approximately their original depth and flow capacity.
What are the responsibilities of the New Jersey Water Supply Authority, the Delaware and Raritan Canal Commission, and the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park? The New Jersey Water Supply Authority (NJWSA) was created on October 7, 1981 (P.L. 1981, c. 293) to operate, on a self-supporting basis, the existing State water supply facilities and to develop future State water supply projects as recommended in the State Water Supply Master Plan. The NJWSA’s Spruce Run/Round Valley Reservoirs System and the Delaware and Raritan Canal Water Transmission Complex (the Raritan Basin System), provide a raw source of water supply to a number of public and private water utilities serving more than 1,500,000 people in central New Jersey. The Delaware and Raritan Canal Commission (Commission), created by legislation in 1974, assists with the development of D&R Canal State Park and regulates land use in the Park's 400-square-mile watershed. The Commission will review the proposed dredging project for conformance with the State Park Master Plan and compliance with the Commission’s regulations. The Delaware and Raritan State Park is one of central New Jersey’s most popular recreational corridors for canoeing, jogging, hiking, bicycling, fishing, and horseback riding. The Canal and towpath are part of the National Recreational Trails System. The 70-mile linear park is a valuable wildlife corridor connecting fields and forests. The NJDEP, Division of Parks and Forestry, State Park Service owns and manages the D&R Canal as a State Park.
How long will the dredging project last? The dredging project will begin in late 2017. At this time, it is anticipated that actual dredging from the Canal will take place in calendar years 2018, 2019, and 2020, shutting down during each winter season.
How much sediment needs to be removed and where will it go? An estimated 248,000 cubic yards of sediment will be removed from a 10-mile stretch of the Canal between Kingston and East Millstone (Franklin Township, Somerset County) to restore its flow capacity. Wet and dry dredging alternatives were evaluated. Wet dredging, meaning that sediment removal operations would be conducted without dewatering the Canal, was selected. The chemical and physical characteristics of the dredged sediments were evaluated and based on the analysis, the removed sediment will be beneficially reused in accordance with New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) guidelines. An Environmental Information Document (EID) that documents and evaluates environmental issues and impacts has been submitted to the NJDEP. The ultimate disposition of the sediment has not been finalized.
Will the towpath be available during the dredging operation? NJWSA would like to keep the towpath accessible to the public during the project. However, safety and operational concerns may require sections of the towpath to be closed at times during dredging operations. Every effort will be made to minimize closures. Planned closures will be posted on this web page.
How will this project impact traffic on local roads? The traffic impact has been evaluated during the planning stages of the project. Trucks are needed to transport the sediment to the beneficial reuse site and any detours and/or road closures will be coordinated with the appropriate Municipal, County and State Department of Transportation officials before construction begins. Every effort is being made to lessen the impact to normal traffic patterns and roads. At this time, there is no expected dredging truck traffic planned during commuting time frames.
Will the communities have an opportunity to provide input on the project? Yes. NJWSA and its consultant team met with officials in Somerset County and the municipalities that border the impacted reach of Canal. Public meetings and a public hearing were held to obtain input from interested individuals.
Will the dredging project help with flooding issues? While the dredging project will restore the flow capacity of the Canal to near original design conditions, it will not have a significant impact on alleviating local flooding caused by the Millstone River or its tributaries.
Will fish and wildlife be protected during the the dredging activity? The NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife (NJDEP DF&W) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) were consulted during the preparation of the Environmental Information Document (EID). The NJDEP DF&W and the US-FWS issue guidelines that must be adhered to during the project’s construction to minimize impacts and protect fish and wildlife.
What is being done to protect the historic character of the canal? The Canal is listed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places. The NJWSA retained the services of a firm specializing in historic resources (a ‘cultural resource specialist’). The New Jersey State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) required that the NJWSA perform shovel testing in land-based areas of proposed disturbance. Shovel tests are used as a tool after research has been performed to identify archaeological site locations. The shovel tests consisted of 376 hand-dug 20-inch holes at spacing prescribed by SHPO, and were conducted by NJWSA’s cultural resource specialist. The materials located in the 20-inch holes were reviewed for historical significance. Coordination with SHPO and local historical commissions will take place throughout the duration of the project. The project design will take into account the cultural resources surrounding the Canal.
What type of noise and air quality issues will be associated with the dredging activity? All local noise ordinances dealing with decibel levels and hours of allowed activity will be followed. As the project progresses, the Authority will have more information regarding possible odors or particulate matter associated with sediment materials.