WELLS — U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree spent Tuesday morning on the water ”“ not in her hometown of North Haven, but in Wells Harbor with the crew of the Currituck.

The Currituck is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ vessel, in town to perform an interim safety dredge.

Town officials invited Pingree and other members of Maine’s congressional delegation, along with local officials and legislators, to tour the vessel and see the work being done.

The 155-foot boat is working 24 hours a day through Thursday to remove sand from the harbor’s entrance, which is then deposited offshore near Wells Beach.

“This community is being helped by this, but it’s not enough (funding) for what they need,” Pingree said on board the boat Tuesday. “The need out there is huge.”

Pingree was referring to the town’s ongoing bid to get a full dredge of Wells Harbor. The town has been working on securing approval and funding since 2008. With permits now in place, the town is waiting on federal funding for the project.

Currently, the harbor has lost about a third of its available moorings due to the shoaling ”“ where sand fills in the harbor, making the water too shallow, according to Harbormaster Chris Mayo. About 50 moorings are unusable, leaving 100 available.

The harbor is as shallow as three feet in some places, and it should be about six feet deep. The entrance channel is an eight-foot channel, but is only about six feet deep currently, said Ed O’Donnell, chief of navigation for the New England division of the Army Corps of Engineers.

“There’s some shoaling affecting the boats coming in,” and even preventing boats from entering and leaving the harbor at certain times, said O’Donnell.

This dredge ”“ made possible through last-minute federal funding ”“ should allow boats to more easily enter and leave the harbor, which is used by fishermen, leisure boaters and tour companies. The Army Corps will dredge up to 20,000 cubic yards of sand to be deposited off Wells Beach in the hopes it will be pushed toward shore to replenish the beach.

The full dredge would remove about 177,000 cubic yards of sand from the harbor, Wells Town Manager Jon Carter said. The main issue standing in the way of a full dredge now is funding.

O’Donnell said dredge funding is leaning more toward large ports where shipping boats are delivering and picking up products, rather than smaller harbors like Wells.

“It’s kind of sad (that) a lot of these smaller projects don’t compete anymore,” O’Donnell said.

Pingree agreed, but said she, along with the rest of Maine’s congressional delegation, will continue to push for funding here.

“We all agree on this,” she said. “It’s hard in a time of budget cuts.”

Pingree took the tour, she said, to get an idea of the issues in Wells Harbor, which will make working with her colleagues in Congress easier come budget time. She also wanted to get a handle on the local impact, she said.

“It gives you a chance to understand the economic impact,” Pingree said.

And that impact is felt, said Mayo.

Harbor mooring fees brought in about $70,000 last year, and that’s with one-third not in use. The harbor also has a long waiting list for those who would like to be fee-paying slip and mooring holders. Mayo said the town has more than 100 people waiting for dock-based slips and another 50-plus waiting for moorings for larger vessels.

* An earlier version of this story was published with an error. This version reflects the correction. City Editor Robyn Burnham can be contacted at 282-1535, Ext. 329 or [email protected].

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