2013-10-25 / Front Page

River dredge needed

Corps of Engineers says Kennebunk River channel has become dangerous for commercial fishing vessels
By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer

KENNBUNKPORT — The New England district of the Army Corps of Engineers has filed for a Natural Resources Protection Act permit with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

The permit would allow the corps to dredge shoals from the 8-foot deep entrance channel of the Federal Navigation Project in the Kennebunk River.

Both Kennebunk and Kennebunkport are overseeing the process. The process is due to tentatively take place between Nov. 1 and March 31 and is estimated to cost approximately $500,000, said Army Corps of Engineers Project Manager Jack Karalius.

“The joint river committees of Kennebunk and Kennebunkport came to me and said we’ve got a problem with the channel and there needs to be some removal of the sand at the mouth,” said Kennebunk Town Manager Barry Tibbetts. “They met with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and they did their analysis and decided yes, they could do it.”

The navigable channel has become dangerous for commercial fishing vessels. In a news release published by the New England district of the Army Corps of Engineers reported that the shoals are “creating hazardous conditions, especially for the commercial fishing vessels that are based in the harbor.”

Due to the high volume of shoals in the channel, Tibbetts said, sailboats and fishing vessels with deeper hulls are likely to run aground, creating chaotic situations for boat traffic.

“Because that sand is filled in the channel, when sailboats’ rudders hit that sand you can’t control or steer the boat,” Tibbetts said. “At low tide lobster boats and commercial boats can bottom out easily, and then smaller boats have to move around them.”

According to a public notice released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, “A recent hydrographic survey indicates that a portion of the channel edge is exposed at low water, and in another portion, the channel has shoaled to depths of minus 5.5 feet across the entire width of the channel.”

The proposed work includes removing about 22,000 cubic yards of “clean, fine sand ... the material to be dredged has undergone physical testing and has been found to be fine-grained sand,” read the public notice.

Once the material has been dredged — a process that is estimated to take between two and three weeks — it will be taken to an area off of Gooch’s Beach, outside the channel.

The area to dredged, according to the Corps’ public notice, is about 1,545 feet long and 325 feet wide.

According to 30-day public notice, the United States of Army Corps of Engineers intends to confer with the National Marine Fisheries Service and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to “ensure that the proposed activity will not significantly affect any species or critical habitat designated as endangered or threatened.”

The machinery to be used in the dredging process will be a government-owned special purpose tool known as a hopper dredge, or suction dredger such as or similar to the Currituck, which was used by the town in July of 2004.

The shoals are primarily a result of coastal storms, Karalius said, “including Storm Sandy in October 2012, and natural shoaling.”

The harbor was last dredged in 2005, and the material was placed at a site near the shore of Gooch’s Beach and Cape Arundel disposal site.

Written comments may be sent to the regional Department of Environmental Protection offices in Portland, Augusta or Bangor. The deadline to comment is Oct. 30.

Mail to the Department of Environmental Protection at 312 Canco Road, Portland, Maine 04103

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