Dredging, Bulkhead Eyes For Bridge Street Waterfront Land

By: Tim Wood

Topics: Waterways

A new bulkhead and dredging are being eyed for the town-owned land at 90 Bridge St. to accommodate ramps and floats for both commercial and recreational use. TIM WOOD PHOTO


CHATHAM – Designs for an 1,800-square-foot building to house the town's shellfish upweller and a gangway and float system along the waterside of town-owned land at 90 Bridge St. will be refined after members of three waterways-related committees agreed that was the best option for use of the property.

The upweller will sit on pilings above the water to the east of the property, parallel to the Mitchell River drawbridge. The gangway and float system will require a new bulkhead, extensive dredging and permitting. The project consultant estimated the cost of the bulkhead and associated work at $740,000.

Members of the waterways advisory committee, shellfish advisory committee and south coastal management committee met last Thursday to review several options for the property, which the town purchased for $800,000 in 2014. While a new dock was built on the property last year to replace a run-down structure, officials are working to develop more long-term uses for the land, which sits between Stage Harbor Marine and the recently rebuilt bridge.

The upweller, currently located at Old Mill Boatyard, would be moved to a 32-by-55-foot structure on pilings over the water on the northeast side of the property. It would be elevated above the flood level, surrounded by floating docks and comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The plans also call for a 60-foot pier on the west side of the property. At last week's meeting, two options were presented for floats off the existing pier for use while the remaining project is phased in. The existing dock is at a high elevation and at lower tides is difficult to reach, said Natural Resources Director Robert Duncanson.

Costs for the new pier and the upweller have yet to be developed.

David Anderson, an associate with consultant Stantec Consulting Services, showed two options for short-term floats off the existing pier, one with floats and docks extending at an angle into the water, and another with the structures running along the southern edge of the property. While the second options would require reinforcing the existing riprap and dredging to six feet, it would help stabilize that section of the property and allow the inclusion of 11 parking spaces, as opposed to eight under the other option.

Because of low water along the edge of the property, extensive dredging would be required; the area is also tight because it is adjacent to the Mitchell River navigation channel. Exactly how much work will be required to stabilize the bulkhead is uncertain; the extent of the existing riprap is not known, Duncanson said. Both state and federal permits would be necessary for dredging and the enhanced bulkhead, he said.

“That site is just not workable without dredging,” said waterways committee chairman Peter Taylor.

There was general agreement among the committee members on the option that included dredging and the bulkhead. Duncanson said the proposal could go before the board of selectmen by the end of September before more detailed engineering plans are developed.

Funding for the project will come from the $11 million waterways infrastructure bond approved by voters in May. Duncanson said officials had projected dedicating about $2 million for development of the Bridge Street property over a period of several years, including the new upweller building, the exact cost of which has yet to be scoped out.

“We still need to do a lot more work on the upweller beyond just a square on a piece of paper, so that's probably a number of years out,” Duncanson said.

Barring regulatory problems, the bulkhead, dredging and float construction project could begin in a year to 18 months, he said. Once plans are completed, the town can apply for state Seaport Economic Council grants, which provide up to $1 million for waterfront projects that enhance economic activity.

While the property was acquired to support commercial fishing and shellfish, it's important to stress that the design also accommodates public recreation use, said Duncanson. The floats and piers will be usable for kayak and other small vessels.