Army Corps floats public meeting in Searsport on dredging
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may be looking to hold a public meeting in Searsport on its proposed dredging project for Searsport Harbor.
Town Manager James Gillway told the Searsport Selectmen at their Feb. 4 meeting the Department of Transportation — the non-federal sponsor for the project — said the Army Corps wants to hold a meeting and would get in contact with him to schedule it. However, Gillway said he had not heard from the Army Corps at that time and no date has been set.
Gillway suggested using the Searsport High School as the venue for the possible meeting. He said it was a facility the Army Corps was familiar with and would allow for the largest number of people to attend.
The meeting would be focused on the Army Corps' $12 million maintenance and improvement dredging project in Searsport harbor. The Corps prepared a Draft Feasibility Study/Environmental Assessment to examine improvements to the navigation channel for Searsport Harbor, which it released in the spring of 2013. However, since that time several communities including Searsport have sent letters to the Army Corps with questions regarding the environmental impacts of the project.
According to the Corps, the preferred navigation improvement alternative for Searsport Harbor is to deepen both the existing entrance channel and turning basin from their authorized depth of 35 feet to a depth of 40 feet mean below low water. In addition, the entrance channel would be widened from its current 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.
The total quantity of material to be removed from the proposed project is approximately 929,000 cubic yards. Dredging and disposal must occur between Nov. 8 and April 9 to protect migrating Atlantic salmon and other natural resources in Penobscot Bay, according to the Army Corps. 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.