SCARBOROUGH — The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will not try to prevent dredging of the Scarborough River, which is scheduled to begin Jan. 6, 2014.
The start date for the $1.6 million project was announced Dec. 13 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which awarded the job contract to North American Landscaping, Construction and Dredge Co. of Ellicott City, Md. on Dec. 2.
Biologist Mark McCollough of the Fish & Wildlife Service this week said although the agency has concerns about the town’s ability to protect wildlife habitat, it will not block the work.
In a press release, dredging project manager Michael Walsh said about 114,300 cubic yards of sediment will be taken from the river channel, between its mouth at Saco Bay and the Pine Point pier.
The channel depths will be restored to between 6 and 8 feet, in a job scheduled to be completed by the end of March 2014. The work was expected to begin in October, but North American Landscaping’s bid was appealed, delaying the contract.
Dredged material will be used to replenish Western and Ferry beaches on Prout’s Neck.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials were worried the Fish & Wildlife Service might balk at the project because town-owned Ferry Beach would lack proper regulations to protect endangered species, including piping plovers.
McCollough said informal consultations are needed between the federal agencies. He also said strengthening leash laws on the beach during nesting season, from April 1 through Aug. 31, would have provided satisfactory safeguards.
But the Dec. 3 repeal of amendments to the town Animal Control Ordinance mean dogs are still allowed off leash on beaches from Sept. 16 to June 14 each year, and from sunrise to 9 a.m. between June 15 and Sept. 15.
McCollough said his agency is taking a wait-and-see approach. But if ordinance revisions are not enacted by April 1, 2014, he said, Fish & Wildlife will approach the Corps of Engineers for a more formal consultation on habitat protection on replenished beaches.
But the dredging will go on, he said.
“No way will it shut down,” McCollough said.