Posted on December 19, 2022
The waterways committee voted last week to approve the dredging of the east channel of Eel River inlet, an area that has become increasingly dangerous over the years due to erosion.
“I think we all agree that something has to be done reasonably soon to reduce the hazardous navigation going into that area,” committee member Joe Voci said. “And it appears as though the most simple solution is to dredge that east channel that we’ve been talking about.”
The barrier spit jutting out from the southwest side of Washburn Island has been shifting over the last several decades, creating faster currents in the area and accelerating erosion. In addition to creating unsafe conditions for boaters, this issue has caused the complete loss of beaches on the west coast of the inlet, degrading nearby wetland vegetation.
The waterways committee has been fruitlessly seeking long-term solutions to this problem for quite a while. By the December 7 meeting, the committee was in agreement that while it continued to seek out a long-term solution, something had to be done in the short term to make navigation for boaters less hazardous.
Committee vice chair Mike Kinney clarified that the short-term plan did not address the initial concerns brought to the committee about the inlet.
“What we’re voting on does absolutely nothing to alleviate any of the problems going in through the Yacht Club channel and going around the spit,” he said. “What we’re doing is we’re voting on allowing more depth for the boaters who use that river.”
Committee chair Jeff Thomas agreed.
“That’s why we would need another project or more scope on this project to keep addressing those other issues, but at least this one addresses the navigation,” he said.
It is unknown how long the dredging will last once complete, Harbormaster Gregg Fraser said.
“It may very well maintain itself for a long period of time. I mean, that would be the ideal. Like Joe said, that could be undone by one bad storm,” he said. “I’m hoping that if we do this, it’s not going to be like the east side where it was undone in six months.”
The committee unanimously approved the dredging plan, pending funding.
Mr. Fraser said that the harbormaster’s office will see if there is extra dredging money left over after routine dredging in the spring. If not, he will seek funding at the next fall town meeting, he said.
Though navigation is difficult in the inlet because of how shallow it is, Mr. Fraser said that most boaters who use the area are aware of the hazard and navigate accordingly. The area becomes more dangerous in the summer with increased boat traffic and people swimming off of Washburn Island, he said.