Housatonic River dredging on schedule

An aerial view of the mid-lower portion of the Housatonic River. — Contributed photo

Although a long and sometimes arduous process, dredging of the Housatonic River is on schedule to begin this fall. It has been more than 40 years since the last time the river was extensively dredged.

This has been an ongoing project in cooperation with the state Port Authority and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and with local sponsorship by the Stratford Waterfront and Harbor Management Commission.

Bill Rock, chairman of the dredging committee, said, “Three very important milestones have recently been reached: renewal of funding by the state, selecting a dredging company and finding a solution to the piping plover monitoring situation.”

The state Port Authority, formed after the funding for the project was originally approved by the Connecticut Department of Transportation, has remained committed to the project. Joseph Salvatore, dredging program manager for the Port Authority, has been working with the Waterfront Commission on every aspect of what is actually two projects combined in one. The clean sand that has silted in several areas of the lower Housatonic will be dredged, then transported to Hammonasset, where it will be used for beach nourishment.

Miley Bull of the Connecticut Audubon Society, William Rock, chairman of the Housatonic River Dredging Commission and Joe Salvatore, dredging program manager for the state Port Authority, talk about the Housatonic dredging project. — Contributed photo.

Miley Bull of the Connecticut Audubon Society, William Rock, chairman of the Housatonic River Dredging Commission and Joe Salvatore, dredging program manager for the state Port Authority, talk about the Housatonic dredging project. — Contributed photo.

The Army Corps of Engineers put the job out to bid at the beginning of the year, and recently the Cashman Dredging and Marine Contracting Co. of Quincy, Mass., was awarded the contract. Cashman bid $9.3 million to dredge nearly 300,000 cubic yards of sand from the river and deposit it on the beach. This will bring the depth of the river to 18 feet with a width of 200 feet from just beyond the breakwater to Goose Island. Dredging is scheduled to begin in late October and be finished before March 1, 2018. The dredge window was identified to eliminate impact on both wildlife and human use of both geographical areas.

An agreement had originally been reached with the state of Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to monitor the piping plover population on the beach. Because of state budget cuts and reorganization of DEEP, they no longer had the personnel to carry this out. “To remedy this problem, we contacted longtime associate Miley Bull [of the Connecticut Audubon Society], and he agreed to handle the task of monitoring these birds,” Rock said.

“This project is ‘phase two’ of our dredging efforts. We completed phase one in 2012, which removed 63,000 cubic yards of sand and deposited it off of Long Beach. That project cost approximately $1 million. When totaled, phase two’s cost will be close to $10 million, making it the largest-ever state-funded dredging project. Together, a total of $11 million worth of services was obtained for the town of Stratford through the efforts of the volunteer Stratford Waterfront and Harbor Management Commission,” said Rock, who served 10 terms as the commission’s chairman and currently serves on the board of directors for the Connecticut Harbor Management Association.

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