Cold, Seasonal Closures Delay Chatham Dredging

By: Tim Wood

Climate change will lead to more frequent flooding of low-lying coastal neighborhoods like Old Wharf Road in North Chatham.  FILE PHOTO

CHATHAM – The recent cold weather, coupled with seasonal habitat restrictions, will delay dredging near Fox Hill and Pleasant Bay.

Planned dredging of the entrance to Mill Creek in the spring should still be on schedule, said Coastal Resources Director Ted Keon.

The Barnstable County dredge Codfish was due to clear shoals from the channel between Pleasant Bay and Ryder's Cove, off Fox Hill, a few weeks ago, but it was unable to leave Dennis because of ice. Because of ice in both Nantucket Sound and Pleasant Bay, it couldn't have made it to the dredge location anyway, he said.

State division of marine fisheries restrictions prohibit dredging within estuaries from Jan. 15 to May 31 due to spawning winter flounder. Keon said he's requesting a waiver from that regulation, but as of late last week hadn't heard back.

“At this point it's unclear whether we'll get an extension, or even if the dredge will be available to do the work,” he said. “Both are unknowns at this point.” A second dredge purchased by the county is expected to be available anytime; if that happens, Fox Hill may be its first job, if the waiver is granted, Keon said.

Dredge around the new floats at Old Mill Boatyard is also subject to the winter flounder closure, Keon added. If a waiver is granted to allow that work, it can be done relatively quickly with machinery from the dock. A contractor is lined up and ready to go when and if the exception is granted.

If the waiver isn't granted for the Pleasant Bay work, it could run up against another closure, this one for spawning horseshoe crabs, which is in effect May 1 to July 31.

The channel near Fox Hill may be just passable this coming boating season if the dredging isn't done. “It has to be passable,” Keon said, noting the volume of boating traffic in the area.

Because the Mill Creek dredging happens in Nantucket Sound, it is not subject to the closures.

Meanwhile, sand dredged from Aunt Lydia's Cove used to nourish the beach off Linnell Lane last year took a beating during the Jan. 4 winter storm. The beach and marsh were flooded and much of the sand moved landward and to the south. That was happening anyway, Keon said, at a rate faster than anticipated due to the widening of the 2007 inlet.