YARMOUTH — The overdue dredging of the Royal River is expected to begin in October under a $2.1 million contract awarded this month.
Project Manager Michael Walsh of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said a $2.1 million contract for the dredge was awarded Sept. 5 to Burnham Associates, of Salem, Massachusetts.
The corps in March budgeted $3 million for the removal of silt from the inner harbor. All of the funds will be used, Walsh said Tuesday, because the contract with Burnham doesn’t cover the corps’ cost of administration, oversight and planning.
Before dredging can begin, a construction meeting will be held Wednesday, Oct. 1, at 1 p.m. at Town Hall. The corps will go over the schedule with the town and discuss details of the project.
Walsh said dredging is expected to start in mid-October, but the contractor has yet to finish the official schedule.
About 82,000 cubic yards of silt will be mechanically dredged in the project, which will create an eight-foot deep entrance channel and a six-foot deep anchorage.
Dredging is supposed to be done every 10 years, but has not been done on the Royal River since 1997. Town Manager Nat Tupper said he is glad the work is finally happening.
“I’m just over-the-moon excited about this,” Tupper said. “I’m pretty happy this is getting done now.”
Walsh said the dredging must be completed in an environmentally allowable window from October through April 2015, when fish aren’t spawning.
“We’re dredging during a time when it reduces impacts to fish, critters, and plants,” Walsh said.
Both Walsh and Tupper said the dredging should be done before April 1, although the amount of time it will take will be weather dependent through the winter months.
Walsh and Tupper said this is also a good time to dredge because there won’t be a large impact on fishermen and mariners.
“That’s the point of doing it in October,” Tupper said. “There aren’t as many fishermen, there aren’t as many fish, and sea critters have gone out to deeper waters.”
Walsh also said the corps doesn’t want to interfere with the work of local fishermen.
“We see it as having little to no impact (on the fishermen),” he said, other than the positive impact of making it easier to get boats through the harbor after the dredging is complete.
“My charge is to maintain navigable channels, so in that respect (dredging) is very helpful to (fishermen),” Walsh said.
Tupper said public notices will warn fishermen to remove their equipment from the water, so it won’t be lost or damaged. He said fishermen who work in the dredge area through the winter will have to move their moorings, most likely to Cousins Island.
“We’ll try to make sure there’s a passage available to them, but when construction equipment is bigger, that may not be possible,” Tupper said.
The dredged silt and sediment will be hauled 15 nautical miles from the dredge area and disposed of at the Portland Disposal Site. A map of the haul route can be found on the corps website.