Emergency Dredging in Chatham Scrapped Amid Safety Concerns

CHATHAM – The Town of Chatham has officially decided to abandon an emergency dredging project.

The decision was announced by Town Manager Jill Goldsmith last week after she and other town officials met with the county dredge superintendent about the status of the project.

“It was a difficult decision, a lot of factors weighed in on it. The most pressing one ultimately was the safety, principally to the dredge crew themselves,” Coastal Resources Director Ted Keon explained.

“We had a conference call with the dredge supervisor. I worked with both he and his crew for upwards of 20 years and this truly was the first time he expressed to me that he didn’t want to start this job fearing for the welfare of his crew.”

Chatham officials had been seeking emergency permission to dredge out a deeper and wider access channel off of North Beach Island. The project was intended to maintain access to the harbor for fishing vessels and Coast Guard rescue boats.

The project brought on many challenges for the town from the start, having to obtain special state and federal permits along with permission from the Conservation Commission to bypass the regulatory process.

The town then faced legal threats from Minister’s Point property owner Gerald Milden, who blames previous dredging projects in Chatham Harbor for the erosion of his land.

Harbormaster Stuart Smith adds that a windy September made dredging in the harbor extremely difficult.

“Getting the dredge started this late in the year, when the winds transition from our southwesterly winds over to our easterly winds, we had a lot of east wind in September, and it’s made the dredging there very very difficult and the dredge crew very uncomfortable,” said Smith.

“That dredge is designed to dredge relatively calm waters and that is not a calm environment on the nice days and this time of year it’s hard to get nice days.”

Keon says that the extremely high volume of boating traffic in the inlet during the summer has been winding down, making it easier fishing vessels with already poor visibility in the dangerous and shallow channel that much easier.

The dredge is now removing sand from Fox Hill that was obstructing access to Ryder’s Cove. In about two weeks, the dredge moves to Round Cove for work in Pleasant Bay.

By TIM DUNN, CapeCod.com News Center 

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