Army Corps Seeks Public Input on Searsport Dredging (USA)
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a draft of the environmental assessment and feasibility study for dredging in Searsport Harbor on April 5 and is now seeking public input. Written comments will be accepted until May 6.
Plans to dredge the channel at Mack Point have been underway for over a decade. The Corps claims dredging is necessary in order to maintain the approach to the piers at Mack Point and to accommodate the deep-draft vessels that currently use the existing terminals at the port but are restricted to delivering at higher tides and without full loads because of the shallowness of the approach.
Tidal delays and light loading of vessels raises transportation costs, according to the Army Corps, which is one reason the dredging was proposed.
Searsport Harbor is the busiest deep-draft commercial port north of Portland. The State Pier handles dry products, including salt, forest products and other bulk cargoes. The Sprague terminal pier offloads Sprague and Irving oil. Since completion of the State Pier in 2003 and upgrades to the petroleum terminal, the size of ships calling at Mack Point has increased. As a consequence, the Searsport Harbor navigation channel is too shallow for existing and future vessel traffic, according to the Army Corps.
The Army Corps proposes to deepen both the existing entrance channel and the turning basin from 35 feet to a depth of 40 feet mean lower low water. In addition, the entrance channel would be widened from 500 feet at the narrowest point to 650 feet, and a maneuvering area would be created in Long Cove adjacent to the east berth along the State Pier. About 892,000 cubic yards of material would be dredged for the improvement project. Another 37,000 cubic yards of material would be removed in maintenance dredging.
The work would occur between November 8 and April 9 to protect migrating Atlantic salmon and other natural resources in Penobscot Bay. Disposal would be at the Penobscot Bay Disposal Site, approximately six miles from the project area, or at the alternative Rockland Disposal Site in the lower bay.
Press Release, April 12, 2013