Posted November 6, 2018
The biggest groundbreaking in town history splashed through several feet of water before hitting pay dirt Wednesday as the long-awaited dredging of Plymouth Harbor began.
Working off the end of the jetty, a crew from Burnham Associates hauled the first of what will be thousands of buckets of sand, silt and mud from the harbor’s channel and anchorage Wednesday afternoon.
With conservation timelines limiting the work season, the first phse of dredging will continue until Feb. 1 and focus almost exclusively on the harbor channel. The bulk of the dredging on the anchorage will be finished when work resumes Oct. 1.
“It’s always great to see it actually commence,” U.S. Rep. William Keating, D-Bourne, said of Wednesday’s start of operations, which will ultimately clear 380,000 cubic yards of muck and sand from the harbor.
Keating helped secure the $14 million federal grant to pay for the project. The work will clear the channel to a depth of about 18 feet. It is currently only seven feet deep in some areas.
Keating said the work has obvious importance to navigation and public safety, but is also critical to the success of the town’s coming 400th birthday celebration in 2020.
“Dredging is so in demand everywhere, and with climate change, it’s more and more of a necessity to deal with. This was necessary absent the 400th celebration, but the 400th has the clock ticking on getting it done in a timely fashion,” Keating said. “Without it, that whole component of the celebration, the maritime parade, wouldn’t be able to take place.”
Burnham Associates, which has been dredging up and down the East Coast for the last quarter century, has contracted with the Army Corps of Engineers to complete the project.
Project manager Matt Sullivan said the company is using a fleet of equipment on the project, including the brand-new Thomas Desmond. The scow barge, which is designed to split in half to empty its load, will team with an older barge to carry mud and sand from the harbor.
Mud and silt from the harbor will be dumped in a disposal field in the middle of Cape Cod Bay. Sand taken from the channel off the back side of Plymouth beach will be taken to Green Harbor in Marshfield.
Two tugs, Realist and Aegean Sea, will do the pushing. The dredge Samson III will do the heavy lifting. Its bucket can haul 11.5 cubic yards of material. It takes roughly 250 bucket loads to fill the barges.
Dredging is normally only allowed October through January, so Burnham Associates will bring in assistance to complete the channel this work season. Sullivan said dredging on the anchorage could begin this winter as well.
Harbormaster Chad Hunter said plans call for anchorage dredging work to begin at the southeast end of the mooring field and move northwest. Hunter said he will coordinate with boat owners to move moorings this year if necessary.
Next summer will see a more extensive mooring removal in advance of the Oct. 1 start of work on the anchorage. The Army Corps of engineers requires all moorings be removed for the project.
Hunter said the mooring season may be shortened some as a result next year. While the moorings are removed, the harbormaster will be developing a mooring plan to use the space more efficiently.
A meeting is slated for 7 p.m., next Wednesday, Nov. 7, at Plymouth North High School, to discuss the dredging and mooring plan. Another meeting will follow in the spring.
By then, the town should have decided on whether to fund its own dredging of the inner harbor. The state has awarded $2.5 million toward the project, but the town would need to fund a matching amount.
Hunter said the town project would benefit from having Burnham Associates already working in the harbor. The town could save up to $1 million in transit costs alone if Burnham moves from one job to the next, he said.
Source: Wicked Local Plymouth