Jun. 11—MORRISTOWN — Work on Morristown's Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative project has come to a standstill.
The $2.1 million project — which included the removal of the Northumberland Street bridge, the widening of the opening into the bay and installation of a new pump station — is part of the state's REDI program, implemented in the wake of the massive flooding along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River in 2019.
Work began last summer on the project by Stark's Gravel & Excavation, Constable, and the bridge was removed in May. It was expected that the entire project was to be completed by the beginning of July.
However, work has stopped.
Morristown Town Supervisor Frank Putman said the project was put on hold by the state Department of Environmental Conservation for several reasons.
"It's my understanding that they had to shut it down when the undercurrent from when the ships go by was coming in and sucking silt or whatever from out of the project area underneath the silt curtain," Mr. Putman said. "That shut it down initially and then as I always like to say, 'the guppies were spawning.' That really shut it down."
Nance A. Arquiett, DEC public information officer and REDI external affairs representative, said that on May 12 and 17 an environmental conservation police officer observed "turbidity escaping from the construction area at the Northumberland Street bridge project in Morristown."
"Sediment that escapes from construction areas has the potential to adversely affect aquatic life and particularly fish reproduction during spawning season. Turbidity is not allowed under the project's DEC permit, and DEC required the work to cease until after July 15 to address this concern," she said.
Ms. Arquiett said that when work resumes on the project, DEC will require additional corrective measures to control sediment turbidity and protect water quality. That includes changing the type and number of turbidity curtains and ensuring proper deployment and positioning of protective measures to "effectively mitigate turbidity."
"DEC's investigation is ongoing and DEC will continue to monitor this work to ensure compliance with stringent protections in place and require additional actions as needed to protect public health and the environment," she said.
Mr. Putman also said that the contractor was required to seed and mulch each side of the project area and that has been done.
The removal of the bridge, according to state officials, would improve the quality of life in Morristown by protecting the safety of boaters, protecting people's drinking water and making the river more accessible to boaters. A previously constructed bypass road allowed for the bridge to be removed without major traffic implications for those trying to cross Morristown Bay.
A new pump station will also be installed on the west side of the bay that would improve the village's existing sewer system and provide additional capacity for future growth and development.