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Milford Harbor’s $5.6 million dredging project will fortify Bayview Beach

Dredging progresses near the mouth of Milford Harbor as part of the Milford Harbor Maintenance Dredging Project in Milford, Conn. on Wednesday, October 18, 2023.

Posted on October 23, 2023

Fine sand being dredged from Milford Harbor as part of a $5.6 million federal harbor restoration project that just started will help maintain another of the city’s natural resources — Bayview Beach.

A mechanical dredge spent the day Wednesday digging at the mouth of the harbor and placing the sediment into a scow. The scow places sand less than a mile off the beach, while the dredged silt gets dumped into the Central Long Island Sound Disposal Site about 11 miles from Milford’s shore, said Coral Siligato, a project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Given that Milford has Connecticut’s longest coastline and a great asset to Milford, the maintenance project is among continued reinvestments city government has made in the harbor and its connections to downtown. That work includes the rerouting of Shipyard Lane behind the Milford Public Library, the renovation of Lisman Landing Marina and the renting of transient dock space to out-of-town boaters.

Another investment, but by the federal government: The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s recently-launched effort at the NOAA lab on Rogers Avenue to cross-breed oysters to withstand global warming.

A fisherman motors out through the mouth of Milford Harbor towards a barge being used for the Milford Harbor Maintenance Dredging Project in Milford, Conn. on Wednesday, October 18, 2023.

The channel-maintenance work will take about four months and is the most ambitious work done in the harbor by the corps since a similar job in 1988. As much as 75,000 cubic yards of materials will be recycled from the harbor in an effort to keep boats from grounding, Milford Harbor Master Jim  Donegan said.

“We want to use whatever beneficial materials we can,” said Reid Lichwell, a biologist from the corps. “It is a pretty common practice, if it is clean sand, to put it in near shore. The material will naturally feed the beach. It will take months to years to get the entire volume of material naturally onto the beach.”

Lichwell added the corps doesn’t want to place material on any hard structural habitats that fish use.

“We want to place it on sand that will not impact the underwater environment,” he said.

Only about 10,000 cubic yards of sand will dumped at Bayview. The rest will go to the disposal site to help cap it and keep pollutants dumped there in the 1970s from leaching out, Siligato said.

“We are really putting a small amount (off the beach) on a big desert of sand, a couple of scowloads,” Lichwell said.

More than a mile of channel from the harbor boat ramp to the open sea past the Milford Yacht Club will be dredged at least partially. The in-harbor dredging will leave two channels eight or 10 feet deep, work that should keep the harbor free of boat grounding, according to a U.S. Army Corps map.

Grounding has been a common annoyance in the harbor over the last decade or so. The work will notably improve the navigability of the harbor, Donegan said.

A crew from Waterfront Contracting of Franklin Lakes, New Jersey is pulling 75 mooring field anchors, which hold the harbor’s docks in place, ahead of the dredging work. The anchors weigh about 200 pounds each. Those that have corroded will be replaced, said Chad Walter, the company’s owner.

The job was a long time coming, Walter said.

“I was here probably six years ago when they were talking about doing this dredging. We did a lot of repair work for the docks that were out there at the time,” Walter said. “Six years later, it finally happened.”

The work drew fans.

Milford resident Bob Tyrrell was out on a dock with his wife Heleen and their daughter Marney on Wednesday looking at some of the watercraft being used for the work. The Tyrrells saw a barge sailing near Gulf Beach a few days ago and got curious enough to wander onto the dock, which Bob Tyrrell likes to fish from, he said.

He wanted to show his daughter, visiting from her home in Las Vegas, all the changes that have occurred at the marina.

“I don’t think that they would be doing it if it wasn’t necessary,” Tyrell said. “The amount of boat traffic that the harbor gets is extraordinary. This is the only harbor in Connecticut that connects right into a downtown, so it is pretty important.”


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