CHATHAM — Selectmen are advancing a plan to build a new shellfish upweller, floating docks and a public rest room on the small town-owned parcel at 90 Bridge St., next to the Mitchell River drawbridge.
The conceptual plan they reviewed Monday evening would cost about $3.44 million to build, less than the $4.17 million projected for an earlier, more ambitious plan. Consulting engineer David Anderson of Stantec, Inc., said the new plan has the support of the waterways, shellfish and south coastal harbor plan committees and aims to “maximize the use and public enjoyment of the site.”
Like the design rejected by the board in November 2017, the new plan calls for a bulkhead to replace the unstable rock revetment currently at the site. But the shellfish upweller building is now located entirely on a pier angled at about 50 degrees from the road rather than parallel to it. The change, and the reduction in docks, resulted in the need for less dredging. In all, the new design represents a cost reduction of around 17.4 percent, Anderson said.
Some opposed the previous plan because the building would have obstructed views of the harbor from the bridge, and Natural Resources Director Robert Duncanson said the new design has had similar criticism. “I don’t think we’ll ever get everybody 100 percent on board,” he said. But the new design focuses on the upweller, the priority feature identified by selectmen in 2017.
Town Manager Jill Goldsmith said the project would likely qualify for funds from the state Seaport Economic Council, and would also be offset by moneys raised through the waterways user fee fund. The remaining money would come from the $11.3 million waterways infrastructure bond authorization passed several years ago.
Selectman Shareen Davis said she likes having the upweller located entirely on a pier, and not just because it preserves the land for parking. “It depicts a working waterfront,” she said. And moving the upweller away from Old Mill Boat Yard will improve the water quality for shellfish, Davis added.
Selectmen voted unanimously to endorse the revised plan and to authorize continued work on the design and permitting, with the understanding that the project will return to the board for final approval before it goes out to bid.