Posted on February 5, 2024
Michels Construction Inc. is currently undertaking dredging the Scarborough River, a federal project initiated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The dredging, which began Nov. 13, aims to remove approximately 130,000 cubic yards of sandy sediment, improving navigational conditions for commercial fishing and recreational vessel traffic as part of the Scarborough River Federal Navigation Project (FNP). Anticipated completion of the project is in March.
The project is divided into two phases, focusing on the Entrance Channel and subsequent shoal areas in the Main Channel and Anchorage. Coastal storms and natural shoaling since 2014 have severely restricted vessel traffic, prompting this maintenance dredging to restore authorized channels and anchorage to their required dimensions.
Scarborough Town Manager Tom Hall said the project was urgently needed due to variables like sea level rise and climate change. “We are hopeful that working with the US Army Corps of Engineers will ensure continued accessibility to our working waterfront,” Hall said.
Despite challenges posed by recent storms, the dredging team, led by contractor Michels, remains on schedule. Hall said, “Michels has been nothing but professional and has completed the tasks assigned by the USACE in a timely manner, allowing them time until March 2024 for completion.”
The contractor has moved nearly 145,000 of sand from the federal navigation project. “They are in the process of cleaning up a few areas and finishing up the main navigational channel into the Scarborough River out by the Prouts Neck Yacht Club,” Hall said.
Community impact has been a key consideration throughout the project, he said. Residents have been kept informed about progress, and precautions have been taken to advise them to avoid areas affected by the dredging.
Environmental considerations have also been paramount, with recovered materials being pumped onto Western Beach as part of an active construction zone.
Craig Martin of the Navigation Section of the New England District of the US Army Corps of Engineers said, “As a part of the project development the US Army Corps of Engineers completed an Environmental Assessment required under the NEPA process. This resulted in the placement of sand on Western Beach as the preferred alternative that met the least costly environmentally acceptable Federal Base plan. In conjunction with this the Corps received a Natural Resource Protection Act permit (401b water quality cert) and Maine Coastal Zone Management Consistency Determination from the state of Maine. The Corps also worked with the Town of Scarborough, Prouts Neck Country club, US Fishand wildlife, Maine Dept. of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to update the Western beach management plan to protect endangered species.”
Once the dredging is completed, Hall said, he anticipates significant benefits for the community. “We have a real problem in the Scarborough River due to the bottom being sand, making it easy for the channel and the harbor to fill in. Completing this dredging project will ensure an open and accessible working waterfront for our commercial and recreational fishermen, enhancing the overall safety of our community.”
Dredging will need to be revisited every 5-7 years based on a lot of variables like sea level rise, climate change, storm surge, and tide change.
“So we are hopeful that working with the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and their counterparts that due to the Town of Scarborough having a federal navigation project that we will continue to have an open line of communication with the USACE to ensure that our working waterfront is open and accessible for our commercial/recreational fishermen and all usages that want to have accessibility to the Town of Scarborough’s Pier and infrastructure,” Hall said.
Despite facing minor setbacks caused by recent storms, the dredging project remains on track to conclude its final stage by March.