After many years of delay, primarily due to a slow permitting process through the US Army Corps of Engineers, the first phase of harbor dredging will commence this fall. Phase I focuses on Area B off of Morss Pier at Masconomo Park and Area C which is across the channel from Area B near the two larger marinas. In addition to the Town’s efforts, the marinas and some private residences in the Inner Harbor will also be dredging along their properties and making improvements to their floats. The dredging work is slated to begin October 2. An informational meeting about the dredging is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, August 15, at the American Legion Hall starting at 7:00PM.
It has been over forty years since the last dredging of any part of the harbor. If left to the natural sedimentation patterns, the usable areas of the harbor would be a fraction of what it is today. A 1934 aerial view of the harbor prior to the first large dredging effort speaks volumes! Basically it shows a narrow stream area with a few boats moored with all the other sections as very shallow mudflats. Today, at low tide, boats are grounding out as sedimentation has reduced the depth of the harbor. Area B and C are the first of four or five phases needed to dredge the harbor over the coming years. (If we rearrange where deeper draft vessels are moored, we may be able to reduce the total amount of dredging needed.)
Dredging is necessary to maintain a usable harbor, but in the short term, the dredging process requires that boats and moorings be removed. This means an early end to the boating season for those who have moorings in the two areas, near the private dredging spots, or along the channel – the large barge and tug being used to remove the dredged materials need a wider channel lane to successfully navigate. Some 170 moorings need to be removed starting September 11. These mooring holders have been notified and should schedule the hauling out of their boat and the temporary removal of their mooring through their mooring company.
Funding for the dredging project comes from the fees boaters pay for their annual mooring and boat permits. These fees will be used to service the bond voters approved for the project. We have also applied for a state grant to assist us with the cost of the project. Should this be awarded, we will be able to use some of the funds set aside for Phase I to begin the process for Phase II.
Dredging can only take place from October 1 through February 15 in order to minimize impacts to marine life. Our contractor, Prock Marine, will need to work around the tides – hauling the filled barge requires maximum water depth that high tide provides. This means there will be night time work as well as work on weekends. The work should be completed by early January assuming no prolonged unfavorable weather and sea conditions.
Once the initial dredging work is done, our engineers verify through survey work that the proper depth has been reached. Any spots that are not deep enough are flagged and the contractor is required to do additional dredging. Our engineers will be monitoring the work as it progresses to ensure full compliance with the various regulatory requirements.
More details about the project will be presented at the forum scheduled for August 15. You are invited to attend and bring any questions you may have for the Q & A session that will follow the presentation.