Posted on March 21, 2017
By Max Sullivan, Seacoastonline.com
Local officials say the Hampton/Seabrook harbor is in dire need of dredging and are calling on U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., to help secure funding for the Army Corps of Engineers to complete the project.
Severe shoaling, in which waves push sand to create shallow water, has caused conditions in the harbor to deteriorate and is making it increasingly difficult for boats to navigate in and out of the harbor. Seabrook and Hampton selectmen are hopeful the Army Corps of Engineers will be able to dredge the harbor soon, preventing what harbor officials say could mean significant losses to the local economy.
A letter asking for Shaheen’s help in securing funding was recently signed and sent to the senator by Seabrook and Hampton officials, the state’s Chief Harbor Master Tracy Shattuck and representatives from Eastman’s Docks, Yankee Fishermen’s Cooperative and the Hampton River Marina. Seabrook selectmen voted to sign the letter at their March 6 meeting. Hampton Town Manager Fred Welch said he signed the letter during the Hampton selectmen’s Feb. 27 meeting, according to meeting minutes.
A spokesperson said this week Shaheen received the letter and will be writing to the Army Corps of Engineers to voice her support for the project.
The harbor was last dredged by the Army Corps of Engineers in 2013, according to the letter to Shaheen. Two years later, the New Hampshire Division of Ports and Harbors observed the conditions of the harbor were deteriorating due to shoaling. Despite this, the Army Corps of Engineers stated it did not have funds to dredge the harbor and would not be able to predict when that would change, according to the letter.
The harbor is a central part of the local economy, including the commercial and recreational fishing communities. Shaheen’s office has said hurting the recreational fishing industry alone could result in up to $91 million in economic losses to the Seacoast. That figure was cited in the recently written letter seeking Shaheen’s support.
If the harbor is not dredged in the near future, the letter states, the entire harbor will be “seriously impaired.”
“This will result in the loss of hundreds of jobs to the area including the ancillary businesses,” the letter states. “Because we are in competition with all of the other small ports in the country, it is our hope that you can help the Army Corps of Engineers secure funding necessary for this project.”