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DredgeWire Exclusive Interview: Ken Cirillo, Director of Barnstable County Mass. Dredge Program, Shares his Challenges with DredgeWire

Ken Cirillo

Posted on March 15, 2023

By: Heiko Osterchrist

DredgeWire recently sat down with Ken Cirillo, the Director of the Barnstable County (Ma.) dredging program, to discuss the challenges that he and many of the towns they dredge for on CapeCod are experiencing. Ken has been in the maritime industry for over 30 years. Prior to becoming Director at Barnstable Ken worked over two years at Garmin International’s Marine Division and prior to that for 28 years with C-Map in various positions from Business Development to VP & GM.

In August of 2020 Ken assumed a newly created position to manage the County’s dredge program. Unlike many towns who hire private contractors to dredge their waterways, Barnstable County’s successful dredging program was set up as an Enterprise Fund (for profit entity) in 1996 to provide regional dredging services to the 15towns on Cape Cod (every town except one requires dredging) at rates well below private contractors. By design, an Enterprise Fund can set aside any ‘profit’ for equipment upgrades and new purchases.

Barnstable original hydraulic CSD that was purchased in 1996 was sold last year after 25 years of service and two hydraulic CSD’s were purchased in 2017 & in 2019. They operate during a reduced dredging season, which now runs from mid-September through mid-June, with Time of Year (TOY) restrictions for Horseshoe Crabs (around the full moons in April, May & June) along with TOY restrictions for Winter Flounder, Piping Plover and Diadromous fish. The busy summer tourist season also prohibits any dredging from June to August (sand being deposited on a beach is not compatible with beach goers!).

CodFish II and Sand Shifter

The demand for dredging on Cape Cod has increased in recent years due to climate change and changing yearly sand dynamics because of seasonal storms. Increased availability of state funding has also led to increased demand for their services. The dredge program has benefited the towns by returning the waterways to a healthy ecological state by increasing water flow preserving an economic asset of Cape Cod and securing the boating public’s safety as well as the commercial fishing industries reliance on maintaining open channels. An added plus, Barnstable calculates that in FY21 it has saved the towns over $6 million vs. using private contractors, and almost 95% of the material that is dredged is reused for beach renourishment projects.

Ken shared that FY 2021 was one of the best years ever with 16 projects ranging from a high of 44,000 cyds, including the use of one booster, to a small project of 205 cyd. Prior to the commencement of any dredging project each of the towns must have the appropriate permits in place. Until 2022 the permitting process ran smoothly, however in addition to the previous governmental approval agencies of USACE, EPA, National Heritage/Audubon, DMF, NOAA, FWS, OHED and DEP they now have added new Environmental Justice review and the ever-increasing TOY(Time of Year) restrictions. These additional restrictions, plus bureaucracy have increased the length of time for the permits to be granted with the overall result of unprecedented delays in dredging projects, which have cost Barnstable’s dredging operation in excess of $800,000 in lost revenue in 22’/23’. These delays, plus natural weather operating delays and occasional mechanical delays have put a fiscal burden on Barnstable County’s dredge operation and depleted their reserves, which hinders maintenance and operations. Like many in the dredge industry Ken shared that Barnstable is also short two dredge operational people.

Historically the towns permit projects on a project-by-project basis that makes it difficult to have a predictable yearly forecast to plan the dredging projects. Currently many of the towns are in the midst of getting ten year permits that will provide some continuity over a longer period, which will hopefully minimize future delays. Unfortunately, at the time of this article, there are four towns that have their 10-year permits pending with the initial permit’s submission ranging from 2 to 5 years.

For Ken and Barnstable, it is much like a ‘Perfect Storm’ – lengthened permitting time, project delays, reduced revenue, budget deficits, and the purchase of unbudgeted operationally critical spare parts.

The revenue shortages as a result of project delays last season and this season as well as a projected budget deficit for the next fiscal year have required supplemental budget subsidies for this fiscal year and next. This has caused a heightened concern and focus has now been placed on what actions can be taken to assist the various towns in getting the permitting backlog moving. To this end, the County has requested the help of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation, which has brought about some immediate focus from the ACOE, and they have also enlisted the assistance of the MA Dredging Coordinator, (Bob Boeri / Coastal Zone Management) who has also helped by coordinating meetings with the various state dredging regulatory agencies. One major deficiency that will hopefully be corrected going forward will be having a ‘one-stop’ clearinghouse or in this case person (MA Dredging Director) responsible for monitoring and reporting on the status of each town’s permits and the status of the regulatory process. The need of the County to take a more proactive role in permitting for its stakeholders is also being discussed with some potential actions such as the creation of a position to assist the towns in managing their permits/projects to regionalizing the permitting efforts via one mutually agreed upon consultant for a group of nearby towns.

Regardless, the current lengthy approval process will take time and result in projected dredge projects for the various towns being delayed and pushed back to another dredge season. As each towns 10-year permits start getting approved, there will be a sudden surge in new dredging projects that will overlap with the existing permitted ones, which will cause a massive number of delays in dredge projects that Ken feels could take two to three years to catch up. Ken will be faced having to weigh each of the projects on whether it is grant funded and time limited, navigational importance, the number of dredging days required, revenue projection, can it wait, etc. Much for Barnstable to consider.

As Ken mentioned there are many variables and balls in the air.
DredgeWire will follow up later in the year on the County’s progress. We thank Ken for his time and insights which hopefully will be informative for everyone in the municipal space of the dredging industry. We all can learn a lot from how the County identifies and resolves its dredging issues.

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