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Army Corps Digs Test Holes for Harbor Dredge Study

Posted on October 24, 2016

By Anne Berleant, The Weekly Packet

As part of an ongoing feasibility study on dredging a deeper channel into Blue Hill Harbor, the Army Corps of Engineers had five test holes dug on October 12 by M.E. Astbury and Son.

The holes were strategically placed to ensure that contaminants were “not dominant,” Blue Hill Selectman Jim Schatz said at an October 14 meeting.

Army Corps engineers discovered contamination “hot spots” this summer during the feasibility study but preliminary testing determined that they were the result of incidental gasoline spills, not pervasive, and had not penetrated to glacial layer, according to an Army Corps report to selectmen.

A 2014 project management plan issued by the Army Corps of Engineers outlined dredging a 2,500 foot long channel leading to a 38,000 square-foot turning basin, dredged to a depth of six feet at the mean low water line, regardless of the tide.

The five holes were dug to a depth of eight to nine feet, and the ACOE will test material removed. The town is paying the $2,000 cost of digging the test holes but, if the dredging project moves ahead, will be reimbursed.

The idea of dredging the harbor to allow free passage for boats into the town landing, no matter the tide, has been floated for over four decades. A 1972 Survey Report recommended adopting a federal dredging project for the harbor but the town declined to provide funding, according to the 2014 U.S. Army Corps report.

Shallow conditions within the inner and middle of the harbor “negatively impact the harbor over $110,500 per year in commercial losses,” according to the ACOE 2014 report. However, selectmen have previously noted that the study does not take into account any possibility of positive economic impact of recreational and tourism.

At the October Marine Resources Committee meeting, fishermen heard “a lot of important information they needed to hear,” Leach said, and expressed, among other issues, concerns over federal control over mooring fees.

The study is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year, but the ACOE recommendation on whether the project should move forward will not come in time for a 2017 town meeting vote, Schatz said earlier this fall.

Voters approved paying the town share of $80,000, half of the feasibility study cost, in 2013. The town would be expected to fund 10 percent of the dredging project’s million dollar cost if it moves forward.

Source: The Weekly Packet

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