A boat is moored this week in the section of the channel in Scarborough that was dredged. Drew Johnson / The Forecaster

A round-the-clock emergency dredging project of the Scarborough River near Pine Point has been completed, and there is more dredging on the horizon.

“It really was kind of an emergency,” said Scarborough Town Manager Tom Hall. “The sands will shift naturally in the bay, and they shifted such that they were really posing an immediate threat at the mouth of the river.”

Prior to the emergency dredging project on the Scarborough River, moored boats could get caught aground at low tide. Contributed / Town of Scarborough

Navigating that area was a challenge for recreational boaters and commercial fishermen, as vessels would bottom out at low tide, even when moored. A safety risk, it also hampered the efficiency of the local fishing industry.

“Back in the fall, we had a lot of complaints that the channel wasn’t marked appropriately because of the way the sand was silting in the river,” said Daryen Granata, a member of Scarborough’s Coastal Waters and Harbor Advisory Committee. “The commercial fishing industry, if they can’t get in and out of the river, the sustainability of the industry, their income and their business is negatively impacted.”

The $4.8 million project, completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was funded through the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Usually, Hall said, the Army Corps of Engineers hires a contractor to do the dredging work, but seeing a great need, they did it themselves.

The dredging vessel, Murden, was deployed to the Scarborough River. Working around the clock, the Army Corps removed about 10,000 cubic yards of build-up in a roughly 11-acre swath of the channel abutting Prouts Neck in less than three weeks.

The dredging vessel Murden was used in the recent project in Scarborough. Contributed / U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The goal was to return the channel’s average depth to 8 feet, which measured at roughly 5 feet prior to the dredge. The Army Corps is conducting a post-dredge survey, Granata said, which will map the bottom of the river and ensure enough depth was created.

While Hall praised the Corps for their swift action, Scarborough gave the Army Corps a much-needed assist.

“Because of the tide difference, they couldn’t get the dredge boat up to the dock for the crew change every 12 hours,” Granata said. “We accommodated them by taking their six-man crew out and changing them every day at 5:45 in the morning and 5:45 at night.”

While the emergency project is now complete, there is plenty more dredging to come – roughly 100,000 cubic yards of it.

“This was an emergency dredge project based on the needs immediately for safe navigation for both commercial fishermen and recreational boaters,” Granata said. “The project is not done … we’ll be getting the permitting and getting the applications to get the entire federal navigation project dredged, hopefully in the fall of 2023.”

That project will aim to remove an additional 100,000 cubic yards of soil and silt further upstream along Pine Point and Western Beach, returning it to the ideal depth of 6 feet at low tide. However, some of the dredged sand will be used for “beach nourishment.”

“They’ll pump it onto the adjacent beach, at Western beach,” Hall said. “They call it ‘beach nourishment,’ so it will restore habitat for endangered species, and that’s something we’ve done with great success in the past.”

The Scarborough River was last dredged in 2014, part of a routine maintenance project every 10 years, as storm runoff naturally builds up sediment along the bottom of the river. Some of the material was used for beach nourishment on Western Beach as well.

The town will seek state and federal funding in the coming months to complete the next phase of dredging.

Boats are moored this week near Western Beach in Scarborough where the second phase of dredging will take place. Drew Johnson / The Forecaster

Some of the dredged material in the second phase of the project will be brought ashore to replenish Western Beach at Prouts Neck. Drew Johnson / The Forecaster



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