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Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 11/9/06

Lawsuit reveals residents' deep dissatisfaction with shallow lake

BY TRISTAN J. SCHWEIGER
TOMS RIVER BUREAU

Point Beach says it plans dredging

POINT PLEASANT BEACH — A group of homeowners, tired of waiting for the borough to dredge the silt-filled Lake of the Lillies, has filed a lawsuit in state Superior Court to try to force the town to provide the dredging work.

Without it, the group contends, the quality of the lake will continue to deteriorate, destroying a natural habitat that is also a valuable asset for tourism and recreation.

"We want to restore the lake," said Candace Donoghue, 56, a founding member of the group, Save Lake of the Lillies. "It's such a wonderful little lake. . . . It's like a little, natural wonder right here in this urban area."

The suit filed last week contends that silt from uncontrolled storm water runoff over the years has reduced the depth of Lake of the Lillies, one of three lakes here, from an average of five to six feet to one foot or less. It cites several fish kills at the lake in recent years and charges that the borough hasn't properly maintained the water quality.

When the town acquired 19-plus acres of the lake through a will in the 1970s, a restriction was placed on the deed stating, "Insofar as possible, the Lake should be maintained in a healthy condition for use and enjoyment of the wildlife of the area and the spiritual, moral, and psychic enrichment of the people of the community," according to the suit.

The group argues that the town has failed to abide by that requirement by failing to dredge the lake.

"They need to roll up their sleeves, and they need to dredge this lake and save this lake," said Stuart Lieberman, a Princeton lawyer representing the group.

But town officials said they intend to dredge the lake and are concerned about the condition of the other two lakes in town, as well. The work hasn't been done yet, they said, because of the expense and because the town hasn't determined how to dispose of the dredge spoils.

Mayor Thomas S. Vogel said the silt in the lake has to be tested to see what contaminants may be present, which then determines how the material can be disposed of. That would have a significant effect on the cost of a dredging project, Vogel said, adding that the borough is performing tests of the sediment.

"This isn't a simple road repair job. The biggest issue not just in our community but in any shore community is where do you put the dredge materials," Vogel said.

The mayor added that the Borough Council set aside $100,000 earlier this year to perform shoreline stabilization work, add walkways and carry out other measures at Lake of the Lillies and Little Silver Lake. Vogel said the lawsuit could slow maintenance work at the lakes in town while the case is ongoing.

"It's not allowing people to have a discussion, have an interest and come to the table," Vogel said.

However, members of Save Lake of the Lillies said the borough has put off dredging work long enough and question the value of the work the $100,000 would pay for. Donoghue said the group came together about five months ago to rally support in the community for a dredging program.

"There's well over 100 people who are supporting the dredging," she said. "It's really drawing a lot of the community together in a common goal."

Tristan J. Schweiger: (732) 557-5734 or tschweiger@app.com