Major harbor dredge under way in Wellfleet Harbor

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Dredging will continue in the fall seasons through 2022, officials said. Pictured, fishing boats tie up at the pier. [DONNA TUNNEY PHOTO]

Posted October 13, 2020

WELLFLEET — The long-awaited dredging project of Wellfleet Harbor has started.

It’s the first major dredge of the harbor in 57 years, Select Board Vice-Chairman and Dredging Task Force liaison Janet Reinhart said.

“If it wasn’t for COVID, we’d have a huge party down there and people would get out buckets and start digging,” Reinhart said. “This should have been done 20 to 30 years ago. It really should have been done 50 years ago.”

The dredging will continue through the allowable dredging season, from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, weather permitting, in 2020, 2021 and 2022. During those times, dredging will be performed round-the-clock. The material that is dug up will be loaded into scows and towed to the Cape Cod Bay Disposal Site.

There will be two phases of the project: the federal channel dredging and the harbor basin dredging.

In the first phase, the federal Army Corps of Engineers is using a dredging contractor to dredge the channel 10 feet deep and 125 feet wide. The estimated quantity to be removed is 156,000 cubic yards. For the second phase, a contractor will likely work over two seasons and will remove 433,000 cubic yards of material.

“This has been a long time coming, it takes a lot of work, it takes a lot of continuity between harbormasters and people working down there,” Reinhart said.

Currently, the dredging task force is working on a contract that would allow a dredge of the inner harbor this year, which they’re calling “piggyback dredging,” after the work in the federal channel is complete. If time and weather allows, the area dredged would be from the channel to the boat ramp.

“If we continue to have a mild fall into December, we could possibly do the inner channel,” Reinhart said. She estimated that with good weather, the federal channel shouldn’t take more than a month to complete, so there would be enough time to do the piggyback dredging.

If some of the inner work can be completed, it would provide important access from the launch ramp to the channel and help mitigate the challenge of completing the daunting second phase in only two seasons, according to town documents.

In 2019, Wellfleet town meeting voters approved $7.5 million to be used for dredging state- and town-owned areas of the harbor and around the pier. The approval came after Wellfleet was granted $5 million for dredging the federal channel and anchorage basin in the harbor.

Access to the harbor during the work for both commercial and recreational boats is being coordinated by the harbormaster.