Posted July 16, 2019
After years of collaboration between federal, state and local officials, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently issued an invitation for bids for the dredging of the Gloucester Harbor and Annisquam River.
The project will dredge nearly 140,000 cubic yards of sand from the channel and Lobster Cove. To minimize impacts on natural resources in the area the Corps plans the dredging over two seasons with work taking place between Oct. 1 and Jan. 31.
“Dredging the Annisquam River is critical for our economy, public safety, our quality of life, and the preservation of this incomparable natural resource,” said State Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester. “Steadily increasing accretion continues to reduce the navigability of the channel, and that demands remediation as soon as possible. Getting it done requires collaboration, focus and persistence. Our partnerships at the state, federal and local levels have driven our progress to finally get approval for this project.”
Sen. Ed Markey, along with Congressman Seth Moulton and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, successfully lobbied to include federal funding for the Gloucester Harbor and Annisquam River dredging projects in the Army Corps’ 2018 Work Plan last June.
“The Annisquam River is an important means of transportation, commerce and safety for Cape Ann. The Annisquam River is Mile No. 1 of the Intracoastal Waterway; and important passage for commercial fishing vessels and for the Harbormasters and Coast for responding to emergencies in Ipswich Bay,” said Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, D-Gloucester. “We must commit ourselves to continuing the by-partisan multi-jurisdictional collaboration to ensure the viability of this unique natural resource as an environmental gem and as a practical necessity to our community.”
Following the opening of bids in August, a private vendor will be put under contract to operate a mechanical dredge and remove the material.
Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken said, “We eagerly await the dredging operations to commence to restore the navigability of the federal channel in the Annisquam River for commercial fishermen and to correct the deteriorating channel depths that limit the ability of search and rescue vessels. The economic development and public safety implications are substantial and the project benefits will be profound.”
Gloucester Harbormaster TJ Ciarametaro has noted that tens of thousands of boaters and commercial vessels navigate the Annisquam annually with conditions growing increasingly more hazardous in low tides.
According to the Army Corps of Engineers’ Project Management Division natural process have reduced water depths to as little as 1 foot in some portions of the river “making navigation hazardous or impossible at lower stages of the tide,” said Project Manager Erika Mark.
Tarr, who serves as chairman of the Northeast Coastal Coalition, Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante and Theken in a June 2018 letter to Assistant Secretary of the Army Civil Works R.D. James wrote “beyond serious economic injury to the commercial fishing industry, additional harm from the worsening conditions in the river can and will impact other areas of the local and regional economy.” They also cited both added delays and dangers for vessels circumnavigating Cape Ann at times of critical conditions.