CHATHAM – Although still in preliminary, town officials were urged last week to keep moving forward on plans for new commercial fishing offloading facilities in Stage Harbor.
“We need this tomorrow,” fisherman and Aunt Lydia's Cove Committee member Jim Nash told the waterways advisory committee last week.
The group was getting its first look at plans for renovations to the Eldredge trap dock, which the town purchased two years ago for $1.5 million. The dock is next door to the town-owned Old Mill Boatyard facility at the corner of Stage Harbor and Champlain roads, where the harbormaster's office is located along with boat docks and piers which were recently renovated and upgraded.
Immediately to the west of the trap dock is another pier owned by Stage Harbor Enterprises, which runs the Stage Harbor Yacht Club. The town and yacht club officials have discussed working together to improve both properties, and the plans show pier-supported concrete docks, similar to those at Old Mill Boatyard, contiguous between the two properties. Because the two are so close together, “it makes a lot more sense to do this,” said Dr. Robert Duncanson, the town's director of natural resources. But he stressed that details, such as whether the public would have access to the yacht club property and for how many months out of the year, have yet to be hammered out.
“We haven't gotten to that yet,” Duncanson said.
“There's a lot of if's, but we're certainly open to discussions,” yacht club commodore Matt Evans said.
Because modern commercial offloading facilities are needed on the Stage Harbor side of town as soon as possible, the town is proceeding as if it were doing the project on its own, said waterways committee chairman Peter Taylor.
“We don't want to take the chance of this getting bogged down,” he said.
No matter what sort of arrangements are made for joint use of the two properties, commercial offloading is only going to happen on the town-owned side, Duncanson said.
The plans are relatively simple and would basically remake the entire site with new construction. The current building on the trap dock property would be removed and a new elevated concrete platform built, where trucks could back up to take on fish. It would stretch the width of the narrow parcel and out to a new bulkhead.
The existing docks, which are in poor condition, would be replaced by the concrete decks secured by steel pilings. All would be at the same elevation. An area between the yacht club and town decks could be filled in with an additional deck, according to the plans, which also show several possible configurations for a floating dock off the concrete decks. Several hoists are also included to assist fishermen with offloading their catch.
Nash said fishermen would prefer keeping plans as simple as possible.
“If we can have a platform that you can just unload, that's durable, that can take one truck at a time, with a ramp at the end, that would suffice,” he said. “It would be a thousand percent better than what we have now.”
“Simplicity is the key,” agreed Harbormaster Stuart Smith. “Let's not make this the lower lot of the fish pier.”
One of the reasons officials cited for purchasing the trap dock property was to serve as an alternative offloading facility for the town's commercial fishing fleet, if the commercial pier at Aunt Lydia's Cove became inaccessible. With uncertainty about future access to Chatham Harbor due to the evolving barrier beach, upgrading the trap dock has become a priority.
No dollar figure was attached to the plans that were examined last week, but the five-year waterfront facility capital plan estimated the trap dock project at $2 million. It would be funded by the $11.3 million waterfront infrastructure borrowing authority approved by voters last year. Coastal Resources Director Ted Keon said the town also plans to seek a state Seaport Economic Council grant for the work; the agency granted the town $1 million for the Old Mill Boatyard project.
Both the town and yacht club contributed to the cost of the preliminary plans. Engineers from Coastal Engineering will now bring the plan to the permitting stage.
The committee also reviewed plans for replacement of the bulkhead at the Ryder's Cove town landing, which will include a new float system, including finger floats along the side of the ramp.