Jones River Dredging has its Challenges

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Posted September 13, 2016

A proposal for dredging a portion of the Jones River could cost the town $2.8 million in the first phase of an $8 million project.

While in the beginning stages of deciding how to proceed, residents have questions about the benefits of the dredging.

Selectmen Chairman Elaine Fiore said the purpose for dredging the channel to a 6-foot depth would be to prevent it from completely closing and having most vessels lose access to the river.

Christine Player, senior project manager from CLE Engineering, presented information on the dredging process and the cost Tuesday night. She said there are specific protocols that need to be followed, but it’s proposed because navigation is unsafe during the entire tide cycle due to sediment buildup.

Fiore said the intent in having a feasibility study is to avoid going forward to the permitting stage without knowing what we’re getting ourselves into.

“We’ve got our feet in the water and we’ll do a little bit more and see where we go, but this is so we don’t spend a lot of money on something that may or may not work out at the end,” she said.

In her presentation, Player said she would suggest a pre-application meeting at the start of the environmental permitting process to gauge the likelihood of a positive end result.

Player said the process could take a year to get to the bidding stage and the next step of hiring someone to do the job and would cost up to an estimated $95,000.

“We are heavily dependent upon the regulatory review process, and there’s multiple reviews, multiple levels,” she said.

The $95,000 does not include the cost of dredging. CLE Engineering recommends the dredging be done in phases, in part to fit into the dredging window between October and February.

Fiore said a property owner in town has offered to take the dredged material if it passed state Department of Environmental Protection requirements.

Selectman Sandy MacFarlane said she’s concerned about the impact on the commercial shellfish sites in the study area. Player said that’s not an area that would be dredged, but reducing any impact is one reason dredging would be done in the winter.

Riverside Drive resident Dan Sheehan said he doesn’t think it makes any sense to dredge the Jones River and would harm the wetlands that balance the river. He said before the town does anything rash, the possibility of dredging should go to the town for a vote and gain a consensus of Jones River abutters.

Old Orchard Lane resident Mark Guidoboni said it’s clear that dredging around Rocky Nook will not be possible environmentally although it would have provided a tax base to help pay the bill for dredging the Jones river, but it should be made clear to residents why it can’t be done.

He said they can’t dredge unless they have a channel to maintain, and it’s possible that some day there won’t be a channel to maintain. He recommends a public hearing be held about possibility of limiting the dredging to 4 feet.

Adams Avenue resident Ken Medeiros said he bought his Rocky Nook property six years ago and in those six years the channel has really filled a lot with a black muck, with road runoff from Route 3 causing it. Going to the 4-foot level could work, he said, to keep the river open.

While the focus has been on the impact of dredging, Adams Avenue resident Beth Hynes said, the town should consider the impact on the oyster beds, the waterway and the future of Kingston as a waterfront community if they don’t dredge.

Source: Wicked Local Kingston