Chatham Selectmen Reaffirm Priority of Upweller Project

CHATHAM – Selectmen in Chatham are reassuring shellfishermen that a project to construct a new upweller building on Bridge Street will continue to move forward.

The Shellfish Advisory Committee has expressed concerns over the project’s urgency due to the condition of the current facility, which was described as old and tired by Shellfish Constable Renee Gagne.

“There is concern that if there is no forward motion with this project that there is going to be come kind of interruption with the propagation program and that is something we don’t want to see,” Gagne said.

The current facility, which is located underneath the harbormaster’s office, is important to Chatham’s shellfish propagation program and supports commercial and recreational shellfishermen. Seawater circulates through a series of tanks through the system.

“We’ve had issues with the upweller and that’s not any new news,” Gagne said.

“We don’t want to put too much money into the renovations because this project is slated.”

The propagation program has been successful and sustained since 1983.

“We just don’t want to have any lag time because eventually there is something that we can’t fix,” Gagne said.

The town has been working on a conceptual plan for the structure at 90 Bridge Street for the last two and a half years, according to Natural Resources Director Robert Duncanson.

In April of 2019, the board of selectmen requested the plan be brought back to the Shellfish, Waterways and South Coastal committees due to concerns over the intensity of the use of the proposed building and its cost.

Duncanson said a revised plan that reduced the size and cost of the project was brought back to the board.

“The board agreed with that conceptual site plan and directed staff to go ahead and continue moving the project forward into detailed design and permitting,” Duncanson said.

Unexpectedly, the engineering costs for the new proposal increased dramatically.

“Basically, the engineering costs had risen 35 percent,” Duncanson said. “That was concerning to us because it was 35 percent over what they had presented in April and 15 percent over what they presented in the first round, and yet the project’s scope was smaller and the dredging was smaller.”

Discussions with the engineering firm continued and the town asked for updates be made to the costs.

“We’ve been waiting for the engineers to get back to us with their updated cost after they reviewed it,” Duncanson said. “Needless to say it took a lot longer than we expected.”

Duncanson said he recently sent an email to see if they were still interested in the project.

The town began discussions with another firm who has been working on the trap dock project.

The town did hear back from the original firm and are expecting to get an updated proposal within the week.

The second firm is also expected to submit a proposal for the project.

“Hopefully within two weeks we should have two engineering proposals in,” Duncanson said. “And then we will be able to make a decision where this project heads.”

Duncanson said there has been a lot of due diligence with the upweller building project given the issues with the long-delayed fish pier and observation deck project.

About Brian Merchant

Brian Merchant grew up in Central Massachusetts and now lives in South Dennis on the Cape. He has been part of the news team in the NewsCenter since the spring of 2014. He studied radio broadcasting at the University of Tennessee.
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