Army Corps Proposing Saquatucket Channel Dredging

by William F. Galvin, Chroncle (06/24/98)

Saquatucket entrance channel on the right will be dredged by the Army Corps dredge CURRITTUCK in mid July if all goes as planned.

HARWICH --- There is good news for deep draft boats using Saquatucket Harbor. The Army Corps of Engineers is planning to removing shoaling in the entrance channel this summer with its vessel, Currituck, a 175-foot hopper dredge. The Army Corps of Engineers estimates the vessel will be on site sometime between mid-July and mid-August and anticipates the dredge work to take one to two weeks.

Based on a commitment secured this week by Congressman William Delahunt (D- MA), the Currituck, a harbor dredge owned by the Army Corps of Engineers, will soon be steaming for Cape Cod. Delahunt said it was possible to "reprogram" excess funds from stalled Army Corps projects elsewhere across the country to ensure three local harbors, Saquatucket, Stage and Sesuit harbors, can be dredged this summer. "Shoaling in each of these locations adversely affected both fishermen and recreational mariners," stated the congressman. "The issue out there is an aggressive secondary bar that has formed along the west side of the entrance channel between the number one and three buoys," explained Harbormaster Thomas Leach. "It's so shallow out there, if you draw more than four-and-a-half feet you're going to be hard aground."

Leach said navigators familiar with the channel conditions have been favoring the east side of the channel. He recommends heading directly for the number two buoy and about 15 feet away it is safe to move back into the middle of the channel. "It takes you out of harm's way," explained the harbormaster.

For the past year, Leach explained, he has been lobbying the Army Corps of Engineers to maintenance dredge the channel. The last time the Currituck worked on the channel was in 1995, when 2,600 cubic yards were removed to a disposal site east of the channel and offshore from Neel Road. The disposal site is a nearshore location with water depths between four and 12 feet at mean low water and is used so the sand remains within the beach system. Leach said sand deposited in that location will migrate east away from the channel and could nourish shoreline as far away as Harding's Beach in Chatham.

The project calls for dredging the channel six feet deep at a width of 75 feet from the deep water of Nantucket Sound to an area north of the shoaling. Leach said the channel is usually dredged to seven feet and the sand settles back in to a six-foot depth. While dredging during the summer months has generated a number of complaints from shorefront property owners and beachgoers in recent years, Leach said the type of dredge operation used by the Currituck, containing the material within the vessel until deposited at the specified site, does not make the water as murky as the hydraulic dredge systems that pumps sand onto the beaches. The discoloration of the beach from the pumped sand has been a source of many of the complaints in the past.

The Army Corps of Engineers has begun a 21 day public comment period on the proposal and any person who has an interest which may be affected by the disposal of this dredged material may request a public hearing. Any interested party wanting to make comment should direct them before July 6 to the Army Corps of Engineers, Construction/Operations Division, 696 Virginia Road, Concord, MA 01742-2751.

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