Maine Department of Transportation has identified an inland site to deposit material from the planned maintenance dredging of Searsport Harbor by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

One of Maine's three state ports, the Port of Searsport at Mack Point provides deepwater access to the Midcoast region and, with rail and truck access, to points beyond. Including Sprague Energy's terminal, the port has a dry cargo pier and liquid cargo pier, storage facilities and an intermodal truck to rail facility. Common commodities handled at the port include oil, gas, road salt, wood, pulp, clay, chemicals, gypsum and wind energy supplies.

Army Corps spokesman Timothy Dugan said the dredging will remove about 40,000 cubic yards of material to maintain the channel depth of 35 feet below "mean lower low water" (MLLW).

MLLW is the average of the lower low water height of each tidal day observed over the National Tidal Datum Epoch, a 19-year period (currently 1983-2001) used by the National Ocean Service as its range for water depth data.

Two feet of overdredge is allowed, Dugan said, which could bring the channel depth to 37 feet.

The Army Corps will be sampling and testing the mud at the dredging site this summer and results of those tests will be available in the fall, Dugan said. The core samples will be taken to a depth of between 35 and 37 feet below the mean lower low water level. Once the results are obtained, an environmental assessment will be completed to determine if the materials are suitable for disposal at DOT’s identified site.

DOT did not respond to questions about the location of the proposed inland deposit site.

The department's 2017-2019 Work Plan lists the project as scheduled for 2018-2019 with estimated funding of $3 million. But because the president’s proposed federal budget does not include funding for the project, Dugan said, it is uncertain when dredging will begin.

Separate from the planned maintenance dredging, a 2000 Congressional Resolution  directed the Army Corps to study the feasibility of deepening the channel beyond 35 feet, at the request of Maine Department of Transportation. Based on an environmental assessment, with sampling conducted in 2008, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency deemed the dredge material for a proposed dredge to 40 feet suitable for disposal in an underwater disposal site.

However, public opposition to underwater disposal arose because of concerns about the potential impact to lobsters and other marine life. The Army Corps withdrew its application for the deepening project in 2015 to continue reviewing comments on its draft feasibility study and environmental assessment and determine next steps.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to incorporate new comments from Timothy Dugan, and to correct his name.