Officials Urged to Revisit Dredging Plans
More than 100 people were present for the public meeting at Searsport District High school on June 9th, to discuss the plan to deepen and widen the navigation channel at Mack Point marine terminal.
Opponents of the plan fear that dredging will disperse toxic materials that were left over decades of heavy industry around Penobscot Bay.
Biologists, like Joseph Kelly — professor of marine biology at the University of Maine — are concerned that disturbing the dredge area and disposal site could release significant amounts of methane gas.
Kelley has worked extensively on mapping the seafloor of the Gulf of Maine, and said the methane would have come from organic matter that grew in marshes 10,000 to 12,000 years ago when the sea level was lower than it is today. That material would have been covered in mud when sea levels rose and undergone a gradual anaerobic decomposition, creating methane gas in the process.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has submitted a Navigation Improvement Project for the existing channel entrance and turning basin to Searsport Harbor.
The project would deepen the channel from -35 feet to -40 feet MLLW. The entrance channel would also be widened from 500 feet at its narrowest point to 650 feet, and a maneuvering area adjacent to State Pier’s east berth would be created.
The proposed dredged material, approximately 929,000 cubic yards of silty-clay, would be removed from the channel in scows and towed by tug to be deposited at the Penobscot Bay Disposal Site.