Army Corps Begins Public Notice Phase On Saquatucket Docks

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Waterways

Saquatucket Harbor.  FILE PHOTO

HARWICH — There is some movement on permits the town is seeking from the Army Corps of Engineers for the dredging and reconstruction of docks and floats at Saquatucket Harbor, with the agency putting out notice that it is accepting public comment on the work.

The town had hoped to have the project underway this past winter, but ran into permitting problems with the ACE. The permitting problems were twofold: One related to the content of the dredge spoil, which initially showed slight elevations of levels of zinc, PAH and PCB. The harbor plan is to dredge 17,100 cubic yards of material from the harbor and dispose of it at disposal sites in either Massachusetts Bay or Rhode Island Sound.

The other outstanding issue is the 408 permitting process, which is required for the town to use a federally designated navigation area, an anchorage site, inside the harbor, where docks would be constructed. The town, in its last reconstruction of dock facilities in the harbor, was allowed to use a section of the anchorage. But permitting has become much more comprehensive since then, leading to the delays.

The good news comes on the dredging side of the project, with Barbara H. Newman, chief of the permits and enforcement branch the Corps Regulatory Division, stating in a notice issued last week that “The dredged material has undergone physical, chemical, and biological testing and has satisfied the criteria for ocean disposal of dredged material.”

ACE has identified the Rhode Island Sound Disposal Site as the proposed location for dredge material. “All sediments disposed at the site have been determined suitable with a project-specific evaluation with an established interagency review process,” the notice states, but adds that this is a preliminary determination and the final decision will be made based on public comment. The Army Corps has issued a notice seeking public comment on the project with a cut off date of June 2.

The notice also makes it clear, relating to the 408 permitting process, that the decision to grant permission for the alteration and occupation or use of the Federal Navigation Project rests with the Secretary of the Army if it is determined the activity will not impair the usefulness of the project and that it will not be injurious to the public interest.

“The decision will reflect the national concern for both protection and utilization of important resources,” the notice states.

The notice describes the proposed project as demolition and disposal of the existing floating dock system, except for the existing pump-out dock, and the construction of 28,000 square feet of floating dock, an increase of 8,800 square feet. There will be 200 slips, an increase of nine. The new eastern pier will extend 220 feet into the federal navigation anchorage.

The project will include 144,000 square feet of harbor bottom dredged to six feet at mean low water with removal of 7,500 cubic yards of material. There will be 100,100 square feet dredged to eight feet at mean low water within the existing footprint, generating 9,600 cy of material. Suitable sand removed from the area will be placed on local beaches.

The project will include construction of a new Americans with Disability Act-compliant access to the ferry and other passenger boats.

“We're making progress, that's a big step forward,” Harbormaster John Rendon said of word on the dredge material and the fact ACE has begun the public notice process. He said the town is still waiting on a decision relating to the use of land in the federal anchorage area.

Comments should be forwarded to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District, Regulatory Division, (Attn: Phillip Nimeskern), 696 Virginia Rd., Concord, MA, 01742-2751.