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Portland Pushes Forward with $25 million Harbor Dredging Project

Posted on June 28, 2024

The $25 million dollar project would essentially build a large hole in the harbor floor, fill it with contaminated sediment from the nearby wharves, and plug it.

PORTLAND, Maine — Plans for a multi-million-dollar project to dredge Portland Harbor is moving forward, with city officials expecting work to begin this fall.

The $25 million undertaking, funded through a broad spectrum of sources—including city, state, and federal dollars—would move a large amount of contaminated sediment around piers and wharfs into a covered hole at the harbor floor. For many involved in the project, this action is long overdue.

Portland’s waterfront coordinator, Bill Needelman, said decades without proper dredging have led to a buildup of silt and sediment, obstructing the passage of boats.

“We’ve lost over 25 percent of the berthing entirely,” Needelman said Tuesday. “There’s literally no water at low tide.”

Much of the $25 million will go toward building the hole, or Confined Aquatic Disposal (CAD) cell, at the bottom of the harbor. According to John Henshaw, the acting chair of Portland Harbor’s Board of Harbor Commissioners, the silt, which has contaminated by years near the city’s piers and wharves, will be covered by clean sediment, instead of flowing freely in the ocean.

“We’re picking up dredge materials that aren’t appropriate for disposing at sea,” Henshaw said.

With the CAD cell in place, waterfront property owners can pay a tipping fee to have their sediment removed and placed into the CAD.

The hope is that, over the long term, dredging the Portland Harbor waterfront will allow more room for maritime business—from shipping to fishing.

“It’s a vital importance to the prosperity of the harbor and the businesses here and really across the state,” Henshaw added.

According to Needelman, any dredging would only happen in the winter, to stay out of the way of fishing activities. He said a dredging contractor would be hired this summer.


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