Dredging stalled

Written by Susanna Sheehan
 | Wednesday, 14 May 2014 16:07

The effort to dredge Duxbury’s harbor and channel has stalled because there are currently no federal funds ear- marked for the project, but lo- cal officials will keep pushing to move the project forward in Washington, D. C.

Last week, Ned Lawson updated the Board of Selectmen on the project and asked for their support of a letter to be sent to members of Congress to help secure funding for dredging. Lawson is part of an unofficial dredging committee made up of members of the following coastal organizations and businesses: the Duxbury Yacht Club, the Duxbury Bay Maritime School, Battelle Memorial Institute, and Bayside Marine. Lawson is a past Duxbury Yacht Club commodore, past director of Duxbury Bay Maritime School, and a retired environmental attorney who worked on permitting for the harbor when it was last dredged in 1997. Harbormaster Donald Beers is also part of this group, which has been working for the past two years on the dredging issue.

Over the last 17 years, areas of Duxbury harbor and channel have become shallower, filled in by sand and silt from storms and shoaling, said Lawson.

“The harbor desperately needs dredging,” he said. “The harbor is meant to be dredged to eight feet before mean low water and now in the northeast corner, the corner near Powder Point, there are areas above mean low water. Meaning that more than eight feet of sediment has been deposited in areas that are part of the federal project.”

According to a 2011 Army Corp of Engineers survey, approximately half of the harbor has less than five feet of water at mean low water and parts have shoaled so they are at or above mean low water. The channel, which should be 100 feet wide and eight feet deep at mean low water, has lost between one- third to one-fourth its width along its entire length.

What does this mean for boating in Duxbury?

“Well if you have an 18- foot runabout that can sit on the mud at low tide, that’s fine, but if you have a 40 foot sailboat that needs six feet of water at low tide, then it doesn’t work. So we’re losing our capacity to service boats that require deep water,” Lawson explained, adding, “Also, access to the town pier will be in jeopardy.”

Lawson estimates that the gross revenues from maritime enterprises in Duxbury totals approximately $25 million. This includes the aquaculture industry and other marine related businesses.

Because Duxbury is a federally authorized anchorage, it is eligible for federal and state funding. However, Lawson told selectmen that the federal Army Corp of Engineers can not proceed because it does not have an appropriation for the dredging project. The estimated cost of dredging the 21-acres in the basin and the channel out to Nun 12 is approximately $3.5 million. Over 100,000 cubic yards of mud need to be removed.

In 2013, residents approved $80,000 to pay for the town’s share of dredging. Since the federal dredging project does not extend to the shoreline near the town pier and boat launch, the town must pay to dredge these areas. The town asked for the money at last year’s town meeting because it wanted the funds available for whenever the project began as it will be more economical to use the federal dredging contractor. The Duxbury Yacht Club, Bay- side Marine, Long Point Marine, Battelle, and the DBMS have also signed up to have their areas dredged.

Since 2011, Lawson has been garnering support for the project, speaking to local, state and federal legislators about the need for funding. He said his group has met with representatives from Congressman William Keating’s office many times to discuss the issue, but recently he has received a commitment that Keating will try to meet with Lawson and the dredging group in Duxbury this month.

Lawson and the dredging committee are also hoping to begin a grassroots effort to bring awareness to the issue. They want boat owners to write to their legislators.

“Another effort we’re using to bring this into the eye of our representatives in Congress is to get boat owners and people who have mooring permits to write letters to our senators and congressmen bringing to their attention the need to for the harbor to be dredged,” said Lawson. “Senators and congressmen are responsive to the needs of their constituents.”

Boat owners at the yacht club, at Bayside Marine and those on moorings will be con- tacted seeking their help.

“We’re optimistic that we can make enough noise,” Lawson said.