Officials Gather for a Summit on Nauset Dredge

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Posted January 22, 2019

ORLEANS -- The Orleans selectmen met in Lakeville, Mass., last Friday.

It wasn’t because they grew tired of the tasteful décor of the Nauset Room at town hall or wanted to bond during a road trip. They met at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife office there to interact with an alphabet soup of state and federal regulators who would oversee any dredging project in Nauset Harbor.

Orleans is seeking to dredge the channel parallel behind the spit until it connects with the main channel and then keep the channel open into Town Cove. There’s also a proposed route down Cable Creek to the Hemenway Spur in Eastham.

All of the selectmen, save Dave Currier, traveled to Lakeville along with representatives from Eastham, the Orleans DPW, the natural resources department, the dredging and waterways committees, the conservation agent and agencies such as Coastal Zone Management, the Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Environmental Protection, Fish and Wildlife, Endangered Species and Massachusetts Environmental Protection.

“It was good. There were 20 people there and we had a good discussion,” said Town Administrator John Kelley. “We were given general directions on things to focus on. The next step is for Leslie Fields (of the Woods Hole Group) to follow up and meet with the boards of selectmen in Eastham and Orleans. We have a contract with the Woods Hole Group to go through the permitting process.”

The one missing link was the Cape Cod National Seashore, the most important stakeholder, since much of the dredging would occur on its land. With the government shutdown they couldn’t attend.

“It was certainly the beginning of quite a lot of permitting communication. All the regulators were there,” said Orleans Selectman Kevin Galligan. “A case was made for the importance of the project but I don’t think they really got the urgency message.”

Fields presented an overview of what Orleans hopes to do, when Eastham comes fully on board. There are 13 town landings and 20 mooring areas between the two towns in Nauset Marsh. Orleans alone has close to 400 moorings.

“This I view as preliminary but this will be a complicated process,” Galligan said. “The Army Corps of Engineers said that if we take the dredge material and dispose of it in the marsh (as was one proposal) we need to do more research (and monitoring) on fish habitat. But we impressed them with our current work on the beach retreat, where we’re already putting in sand which we’re allowed to do by the Seashore.”

Orleans is building dunes at Nauset Beach and that is another possible location for dredge spoils. Because of concerns that the planned dredging could undermine the backside of Nauset Spit the Woods Hole Group proposed to shift the work toward the back end of the channel. Revisions have increased the potential spoils from 80,000 cubic yards to 120,000, so there is more to relocate.

Kelley noted that the current dune building project at Nauset Beach is using 27,500 cubic yards of sand.

“We’re trying to determine the best location for the channel and how deep the water is,” Kelley said. “We’d like it five feet below the mean low tide. We talked about putting (the dredge spoils) north of the parking lot (at Nauset) in an over wash area. There’s also the idea of building more marsh area but that is something the DEP Boston office has not permitted. Some of these projects would add to the level of complexity.”

It was pointed out that if the towns dredge the channel behind the barrier beach they will need a maintenance plan, as the channel will silt back in. That’ll add cost to the overall project.

There will be a lot of permits required.

“I feel confident we can get this done but it can’t happen tomorrow,” Galligan said.

Kelley said the two select boards hope to hold a joint meeting in early February. Eastham is having the project looked over by the Center For Coastal Studies and its report is due in April.

Source: Wicked Local Brewster