"Everything you can imagine is sitting in our waterways," he said.
Barnegat Bay is likely to have some no-go zones in place for at least part of the spring and summer as cleanup work progresses. "Big Al" Wutkowski, a locally famous striped-bass fisherman who volunteers as the Barnegat Bay Guardian for the American Littoral Society environmental group, is worried about what still lurks beneath the waves.
"When people start putting their boats back in the water in April, I know they're going to start hitting stuff," he said. "It's impossible not to hit stuff. It's also a lot shallower in places now. A lot of the lagoons are filled in with sand. People can't get their boats in or out."
Florida-based contractor AshBritt Environmental removed 42 boats from New Jersey waterways in recent weeks. Others were corralled by the State Police, or by private salvage companies acting on behalf of owners.
Property owners are not being held financially responsible for debris that washed or blew off their property into waterways unless they hire a private company to retrieve a boat they plan to repair and keep, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The state, which issue contracts last week for the water cleanup work, plans to seek full reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency as part of $60 billion in Sandy relief approved by Congress.
Much of the work will involve cranes atop barges that pluck the largest debris from the bottom. Divers could be used for smaller pieces. Once that's done, many waterways will need to be dredged, with the sand placed back on beaches.
The private owners of an amusement pier that collapsed in Seaside Heights, N.J., pitching the Jet Star roller coaster into the ocean, are working with insurers to devise a plan to dismantle the ride and get it out of the ocean.