HIGHLANDS, NJ - NJDEP Commissioner Bob Martin and US Congressman Chris Smith are among the speakers scheduled for a Tuesday, Jan. 19 event to mark the start of construction on the fish passage at Wreck Pond.

The construction kick-off event will begin at 1 p.m. on the boardwalk at the corner of Brown and Ocean avenues in Spring Lake, NJ. In case of rain, the event will take place on Wednesday, Jan. 20 at 1 p.m.

Work has been underway for weeks at Wreck Pond, but the multi-million-dollar project is more than a facelift. With completion of pond dredging the focus will shift to installation of a 600-foot fish passage that should help alleviate flooding in the surrounding area, improve water quality, and bring life back to the Wreck Pond watershed.

The Jan. 19 event will recognize those who have played an integral role in supporting the project, provide updates on progress, and give attendees insight on the future of Wreck Pond. Among those speaking at the event will be US Rep. Chris Smith (R-4th Dist.), Bob Martin, commissioner of New Jersey's Dept. of Environmental Protection, and Spring Lake Mayor Barbara Naughton. New Jersey Field Office Supervisor Eric Schrading will represent the US Fish and Wildlife Service. USFWS is the primary funder for the fish passage component. Additional project funding is from the US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, the Borough of Spring Lake, and NJDEP.

NJDEP, under Commissioner Martin, has been focused for years on water quality and flooding issues related to Wreck Pond. The agency has been working with a number of organizations to help educate the public and pursue mitigation projects related to the 73-acre coastal lake.

Rep. Smith has been instrumental in bringing the US Army Corps of Engineers attention to coastal lakes in Monmouth and Ocean counties. Thanks to his efforts, New Jersey towns with coastal lakes could be in line for federal funding that would help solve repetitive flooding problems that were exacerbated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

For more information on the event, contact David Hawkins, Communications Manager for the American Littoral Society. More information on the Wreck Pond project can be found at http://www.WreckPond.org.

Wreck Pond is a 73-acre coastal lake located on the borders of Spring Lake and Sea Girt, NJ. It serves as the eastern extent of the Wreck Pond Brook Watershed, which is home to over 12 square miles of important habitat for birds, fish, and other wildlife. It is fed by three main tributaries -- Wreck Pond Brook, Black Creek, and Hannabrand Brook -- that together with smaller creeks and streams, drain the boroughs of Sea Girt, Spring Lake, Spring Lake Heights, and Wall Township in Monmouth County, NJ.

Historically, Wreck Pond had a natural inlet; however, in the 1930's the inlet was filled in, and a pipe was installed to connect the lake to the ocean. Over time, inadequate tidal circulation to and from the pond, coupled with impacts from increased development, led to a number of environmental issues within the watershed including erosion, impaired water quality, flooding, and reduced fish populations.

A diverse group of partners has been working together to address these issues and help restore the ecological health of Wreck Pond and the larger watershed. This current project involves the construction of a fish passage (which will also increase water exchange with the ocean), construction of an elevated berm and living shorelines, and localized dredging. This work will serve to improve water quality, reduce area flooding, and aid fish passage into and out of Wreck Pond. Together, the many components of this project will make a big difference in improving the area for people and wildlife for years to come.

Project funders include the US Fish and Wildlife Service, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, US Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Borough of Spring Lake. Project partners include the County of Monmouth, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Leon S. Avakian, Inc., Najarian Associates, Inc., the Borough of Sea Girt, the Wreck Pond Brook Watershed Technical Advisory Committee and Regional Stormwater Management Plan Committee, Rutgers University Cooperative Extension, and Monmouth University.

For more information about the American Littoral Society or to become a member, please visit www.littoralsociety.org or call 732-291-0055.