CAPE MAY, New Jersey (WPVI) -- A multi-million dollar dredging project is underway in New Jersey, which officials argue is vital to the shore's economy.
The Department of Transportation's project, which has been going on since last winter in Cape May, is ensuring the waterways there remain navigable for both commercial and recreational vessels, according to officials.
"We're down in the beautiful Cape May Harbor, all the way in the southern tip of New Jersey," said Genevieve Clifton, the acting director of maritime resources for NJDOT.
She says just like roads need to be maintained for cars, channels around Cape May need to be upheld to provide safe passage for boats.
"Whether it be the fishery, recreational boaters, families, businesses, emergency services, whoever it is can navigate safely through New Jersey state channels," she said.
That's why she says a hydraulic dredging boat is operating 24/7.
"This is the engine that's causing the suction, which is coming from the front," said Vinny Masciandaro, the resident engineer on the project.
He pointed at a tube that he says operates like a vacuum, sucking up extra sediment that has built up over the years from storms and runoff.
"There's another connection to the pipe that goes out another two miles," he said.
This $2.7 million project in the Port of Cape May has been going on since February. In this particular channel, crews are digging to seven feet.
"There is a marina at the back of the channel, so there is a lot of recreational boat traffic as well as from the boat ramp we were at previously," he said.
Crews argue the project is vital to the shore's economy. NJDOT says the port generated nearly $150 million in revenue in 2021.
"We're right in the middle of the harvesting grounds for the majority of your squid, summer flounder, and black sea bass," said Wayne Reichle, the president of Lund's Fisheries.
He says his business sends boats out every day in the port, collecting thousands of pounds of seafood that are distributed around the world.
"Making sure our channels are deep enough and navigable enough and safe enough for us to move in and out of is critical," he said.
The Department of Transportation says it has more than 200 waterways it monitors. Dredging takes place on an approximately three-year rotation.