Cranbury Township officials have begun the process of getting Brainerd Lake ready for dredging in 2020.

The lake is located near the center of downtown Cranbury where Main Street crosses over the lake. There are businesses on its north side and mostly residential homes near the south side. The lake also feeds into Cranbury Brook where there is a dam.

“We had a work session on May 13 where we kicked off the process. We introduced what the concept would be and the town engineer’s plan,” Cranbury Mayor James Taylor reported. “The next step would be for the engineer to do soil sampling and apply for the necessary state Department of Environmental Protection permits. Once all the permits are granted, we go out to bid. We estimate the bid will be awarded sometime early next year. By May of 2020, you will see shovels in the ground dredging the lake.”

He reported that officials are estimating the cost of dredging the lake to be $5 million.

“Even if it went up to $6 million or down to $4 million it is fine. We have contingencies in our plan to allow for growth up and down,” Taylor said. “When we did our budget for the year we looked at our capital plan for the next three years and our tax rate reflects what future debt we may take on. We ended up taking on $3 million less of debt with road repairs, because Petty Road and Brickyard Road got done so that $3 million can be applied to the lake.”

He explained that it is also important for residents to know that the dredging will not cause an increase in taxes.

“When we approved the 10 cent tax decrease that factored in the debt we would need to pay for the lake dredging, as well as, the road repairs. There won’t be an increase on taxes based on the lake dredging,” Taylor said.

Officials estimate the Brainerd Lake dredging will be complete by Cranbury Day at the end of 2020.

“The lake is the focal point of our town and its history. Back when we were first established, the lake was important to the community,” Taylor said. “It was dammed up to create the spice mill, the ice warehouse and everything that kept the town physically running for all those years. Now it is our town’s identity. There is also a safety standpoint, as the lake starts to fill in and we start to have bigger storms there is no way for the water to run to. That would create flooding hazards, issues with possible property damage and a whole host of other issues.”

He revealed that the dredging will allow for the town to handle the storm runoff and keep the lake preserved from all the growth from weeds that can create environmental problems.

According to the National Ocean Service, the process of dredging is the removal of sand, silt and debris from gradually filling the bottom of lakes, rivers, harbors, and other water bodies. It is also a routine necessity that reduces the exposure of fish, wildlife, and people to contaminants and to prevent the spread of contaminants to other areas of the water body.

The township will drain the lake, a temporary road ramp will be installed instantly, trucks will come in and be loaded up with waste, the materials will then be taken to an approved DEP site, according to officials.

“There will be no dredging material sitting on Township property that risks contamination. This is going to be a very clean process of getting things out of the town,” Taylor said.

He said getting the dredging going is extremely rewarding.

“For 10 years, I have wanted to accomplish this and for the township committee it has been a goal as well,” Taylor said. “We started seriously considering this back in 2011, when Susan Goetz was on the township committee.”

He said this year was the perfect storm where everything just aligned.

“The warehouse developments created the financial increase in our value, which enabled us to take on the debt from the lake. If it were not for those revenues we would not have been in position to dredge the Brainerd Lake,” Taylor said.

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