Chatham and Harwich will receive grants from the state's new Navigational Dredging Pilot Program, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito announced in Hyannis last week. They are two of 11 coastal communities that will share $3.6 million for dredging projects projected to remove a total of nearly 188,000 cubic yards of sand.
Chatham will receive $350,000 to dredge the entrance channel to Stage Harbor, as well as the nearby Morris Island cut. Harwich will receive $36,000 to dredge the navigational approach and entrance to Allen Harbor. The project will nourish a public coastal beach and ensure all-tide navigation for commercial and recreational boating within the developed harbor.
The 2018 Navigational Dredging Pilot Program was established by the Baker-Polito Administration as part of an effort to promote and support the economic significance and environmental vitality of the commonwealth's navigational waterways, according to a press release. The grants require a 50 percent match by the towns.
Last month Gov. Charlie Baker signed economic development legislation that authorizes $50 million for saltwater dredging, creating the state's first-ever program with focused funding that will build on the dredging pilot program the Administration launched in July.
Harwich Harbormaster John Rendon said the town this past year dredged the Saquatucket Harbor entrance channel, Allen Harbor and, at the end of September, Round Cove.
“It all costs money and it is expensive,” Rendon said. “The town recognizes and appreciates we have to keep our channels open.”
Rendon said when the grants were announced there was only a couple of weeks to put a proposal together. He said the $36,000 grant will help fund removal of approximately 8,000 cubic yards of sand in the Allen Harbor channel. The town will fund the remainder of the $72,000 project.
The Allen Harbor channel is a particularly difficult one to keep open between the jetties because the west side jetty is extremely porous and sand filters through, Rendon said. The town is seeking funding in the capital plan to hire an engineer to examine a remedy, he added.
Chatham appropriated $450,000 for dredging in the Stage Harbor channel and the Morris Island cut area with the sand being pumped to eroding beaches at Cockle Cove and Harding's Beach. The $350,000 grant will support that project, said Coastal Resources Director Ted Keon. While the Barnstable county dredge has not yet set a winter schedule, Keon said he expects the work will be done sometime within an early winter to early spring timeframe. But that is weather dependent, he noted.
“We all know with the nature of this work weather can throw us many curve balls,” he said. The project will remove some 40,000 cubic yards of sand from the Stage Harbor channel and an as-yet quantified volume from the Morris Island cut.
Inclusion of the Morris Island cut area, which has shoaled significantly since the April 2017 break in South Beach, is pending modifications to existing permits. Existing permits pre-date the changes to the outer beach and allowed a 75-foot-wide, four-foot-deep channel, Keon said. It needs to be wider and deeper.
“We haven't fully defined what that will be,” he said. A further complication is that much of the shoaling is within the area west of the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge whose ownership is under dispute between the town and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. That poses a complication, Keon said, but local officials are working with refuge management and hope to keep most of the dredged areas out of the disputed section.
As in Harwich, Chatham officials didn't have a lot of time to prepare an application for the pilot dredging program; luckily the Stage Harbor dredging project was already in process.
“It pays to be shovel-ready and to be in regular communications with our legislators,” said Town Manager Jill Goldsmith, specifically citing the work of Representative Sarah Peake, D-Provincetown, and Senator Julian Cyr, D-Truro.
Chatham's investment in coastal infrastructure in the past two years is paying off, Goldsmith said. “The board of selectmen has identified this as a priority and their leadership, along with the community's support, has allowed staff and committee volunteers to prioritize these efforts for coastal resiliency planning and supporting our local commercial fishing economy.” Keeping the Stage Harbor entrance channel clear will ensure access to harbor facilities, including the Eldredge Trap Dock, which the town purchased and is in the process of renovating as a commercial facility.
“This funding to support dredging is essential to ensure the ongoing vitality of our harbors,” Peake said in a press release. “Cape Cod harbors are gateways into their respective communities, providing access for both recreational and commercial boating. Channel dredging will also increase public safety because in many cases, boats are high and dry, sitting in the mud at low tide. This makes it impossible for rescuers to reach boaters or paddlers in distress.”
“The new Navigational Dredging Pilot Program is the direct result of outreach by municipal leaders in our coastal communities and the collaborative, responsive efforts of (Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development) Secretary Jay Ash and his team,” Gov. Baker said in the press release. “Through the economic development package we signed last month, our Administration will create a dedicated dredging program to continue to support the economic and environmental needs of our maritime communities.”