Delays, Weather Scuttle Emergency Dredging

By: Tim Wood

Dredges.  FILE PHOTO

CHATHAM – After numerous delays, town officials have decided to scrap planned emergency dredging of shoals near the North Inlet in Chatham Harbor.

In an email to selectmen Thursday, Town Manager Jill Goldsmith said part of the reason for the decision was the safety of the crew of the Barnstable County dredge.

Authorized in August, the project was plagued by mechanical and computer delays with both the original county dredge, the Codfish, and the new dredge, Sand Shifter. Weather conditions prevented the deployment of pipes for disposal of dredged sand, and wind and wave conditions have shifted so that swells inside and to the south of the inlet, where the dredge was to clear shoals, pose a potential danger to the dredge, said Coastal Resources Director Ted Keon.

The board of selectmen approved the project Aug. 15 and emergency dredge authorization was received Aug. 22. Emergency dredging was necessary, officials said, because the shoals posed a hazard to commercial fishing boats and recreational boaters using the inlet, which is now the predominant access from the harbor to the Atlantic.

But boating activity has fallen off considerably, Keon said, especially among recreational boaters, thus reducing the need for the emergency dredging.

Officials met Thursday afternoon and decided to call off the project, said Goldsmith.

“This decision to postpone the dredging approved by the BOS was difficult, but the potential dangers and risk to the dredge crew were compelling as well,” she wrote in the email.

The dredge will now move to Fox Hill, which it had been scheduled to dredge after completing the emergency work near the inlet.

Keon and Harbormaster Stuart Smith will provide the board of selectmen with an update on the situation Monday.