Boulder removal and dredging in the Charlestown Breachway has made passage in and out of the channel and Ninigret Pond safe again for vessels. The Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) oversaw the work, which was funded with federal, state and town money.
Last week, the crews from Patriot Marine, LLC, Ocean Marina and Specialty Diving Services, Inc., conducted the removal of 212 cubic yards of boulders, dredged material, and surveys of the channel to ensure correct depth and adequate rock removal. The total project cost is estimated at approximately $300,000, with a 75/25 percent federal/state match, and including $70,000 in rock removal funds provided by the Town of Charlestown. The Federal Emergency Management Agency provided post-Sandy relief funds.
During Superstorm Sandy last year, many rocks and small boulders tumbled from the breakwater into the channel, posing navigational hazards for vessels. Immediately following Sandy, a sand bar also formed inside the mouth of the channel, according to Danni Goulet, marine infrastructure coordinator for CRMC.
Many of the boulders were too large to be deposited back on the breakwater, or even lifted onto the barge, Goulet said, and were moved just off the beach on the west side of the breakwater in approximately eight feet of water, creating additional fish habitat. Those small enough for excavator to lift with its five-foot by five-foot bucket were put back on the breakwater.
Dredging began Wednesday night, and crews were under a tight deadline to finish the work before the weather deteriorated at the end of this week. Prior to dredging, areas of the channel were at some points four feet deep or less, and with some of the boulders presenting 3-5 feet of exposed rock in a 6-8 foot deep channel, that left little depth for passing vessels.
“It was already a bad situation, but Sandy made it dangerously unsafe,” Goulet said. “Two boats could not pass through safely before this week’s work.”
“The Charlestown Town Council recognized the value of this project, both for safety and economic benefit,” said Steve McCandless, GIS coordinator for the town.
Press Release, May 12, 2014