Saquatucket Renovation Project Stalled A Year

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Infrastructure , Harwich Port , Waterways

Saquatucket Harbor.  FILE PHOTO

HARWICH — The proposed $7 million Saquatucket Harbor waterside renovation project will be put on hold for a year while the town works through additional permitting issues required by the Army Corps of Engineers.

There are two issues the town will need to address. One is the need for additional biological testing of dredge material in the harbor, while the other relates to a 408 permit, requiring the Corps to approve public use of a federal navigation area, the federal anchorage within Saquatucket Harbor. The 408 permitting process is estimated to take four to six months to complete.

Harbormaster John Rendon said there is a line across the middle of Saquatucket Harbor that designates the federal anchorage area, but in the 1980s when the west side dock was expanded the Army Corps of Engineers signed off on the expansion into the federal anchorage area.

The proposed waterside infrastructure renovation project that was anticipated to take place over the coming winter includes expansion of an east side dock into the federal anchorage area where new and larger slips are proposed. Rendon said the east side expansion would not take up much more of a footprint because there is already a dock system extending off the west side dock into the area.

Rendon said earlier in August he received word from Russell Titmuss, the project manager from Bourne Consulting Engineering, relative to both the dredge material testing and the 408 permit. An email sent to Rendon on Aug. 5 from Titmuss pointed out Ed O'Donnell, head of the navigational section of the New England Division of ACE, said the permit will be required.

“The separate application is a fairly new process in his words. Previously we have always had this issue reviewed under the normal environmental permit review process,” Titmuss stated in that email.

The news of the need for the 408 permit caught Rendon by surprise. He said when documentation for the project was submitted to ACE in March town officials asked if there would be any other reviews required and were told no. But the navigation branch has changed its review process, he said.

Rendon and Town Administrator Christopher Clark met Monday to go over the status of the project. Rendon said ACE has requested more biological testing of dredge materials based on test results showing slightly elevated levels of zinc, PAH and PCB. The town is anticipating dredging 12,500 cubic yards of material from the harbor as part of the project.

The plan to use the dredge material disposal site in Cape Cod Bay has been turned down, Titmuss informed Rendon. While no one contaminant was high enough by itself, the but overall cumulative effect probably resulted in the decision, Titmuss stated. It is anticipated the material will be approved for disposal offshore at the Massachusetts Bay disposal site, but he added additional biological testing will likely be needed. Dredge material from Allen Harbor was deposited at at the Massachusetts Bay site.

On Monday afternoon, Clark sent an email to members of the board of selectmen providing the latest update. In it he stated: “The long and the short of this information is that we will not be able to proceed with the Saquatucket Harbor marina project in the fall of 2016 with the completion in the spring of 2017...The project will have to be delayed for one year with the goal of being started in the fall of 2017 with the completion in the spring of 2018.”

Clark wrote that it is imperative that when the town goes out to bid the necessary permits are in place so the contractor knows how the construction can be completed and where the dredge materials need to go.

“I'm very disappointed. This had good momentum and clearly it's needed,” Rendon said of the project. “But it's better to have all the permits in place rather than reduce the scope of the project.”

The decision to put off the project raised a few more issues. Rendon said he has contacted the Seaport Economic Council, which committed a $1 million grant to the project to address ADA compliance, and has been assured they will secure the funds for an additional year for this project.

Voters in the annual town meeting and ballot box this spring approved $7 million for the waterside harbor renovation project. They also provided $250,000 for engineering of the land-side renovations at Saquatucket Harbor and the former Downey property. A decision will have to be made on whether to move forward with both construction projects in FY18. “I think we need to look at that closely,” Rendon said Tuesday. “It's premature to think they both can't be done. The upside is it would minimize construction at the harbor over two different seasons.”

“We will need to do additional due diligence to see if sufficient space exists to allow for both construction projects to occur simultaneously,” Clark stated in his email to selectmen.

Rendon said he would be notifying slipholders by email of the status of the renovation project. He had notified the slipholders earlier in the boating season that all vessels would have to be hauled by Oct. 15 so construction could begin. The project has yet to be bid. Rendon said he'd send out an email stating boaters can stay through the normal season, which ends Nov. 1.

When asked about the financial impact of the year delay, Rendon said he did not know if it would drive up costs. He said they would be having that discussion with Bourne Consulting Engineers.