Posted on August 5, 2022
ELLSWORTH — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers confirmed this week that $4,723,000 has been allocated for the Union River dredging project and that prep work has begun.
“Our district has many projects already funded that we are working on and now we will begin work on the considerable effort for the planning, coordination with agencies, and design for this project, too,” said Bryan Purtell, a member of the public affairs office for the Army Corps of Engineers, New England District.
While it was initially believed that funding would be made available through a Congressionally Directed Spending request — attached to the FY23 appropriations bill still working its way through Congress — the Corps said it decided in May to allocate money for the project from its own budget as part of its FY23 work plan.
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ office confirmed that their request for $5 million for the project has been withdrawn.
“This is very exciting news and just in time,” said Harbormaster Adam Wilson. “The Federal Channel has silted in to about 12 inches at mean low tide. We are seeing the increasing demand for all types of boating at the Ellsworth Harbor, and dredging will ensure not just full tide access for pleasure vessels but also the commercial fishing industry, along with the safety of the vessels exposed to high winds and the occasional hurricane.”
Acquiring federal funding for the project was a high priority for the city. The cost ballooned when it was discovered that the soil in the river was contaminated with heavy metals. This meant that the Corps would remove the sediment and store it somewhere on land instead of dumping it back in open water.
Though the project has been funded, it will most likely be quite a while before any material is actually removed from the riverbed.
“This large a contract effort takes considerable time to prepare for the solicitation of a dredging contract,” Purtell said. “The dredging work will begin as soon as we are able; however, please understand that we are estimating over two years before the contract will be awarded.”
The city also will bear a portion of the burden, though there are no specifics yet as to how much may need to be allocated.
City Manager Glenn Moshier had no comment on the developments at this time.