SCARBOROUGH – Both local and federal officials are expressing concern that the dredging of the Scarborough River in Pine Point will not be completed by the April 1 deadline.

Scarborough Harbormaster Dave Corbeau said, “In my opinion (the contractor) is way behind.”

The same sentiment was also expressed by Mike Walsh, the project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“The contractor is behind his submitted schedule and time will tell whether he can make the deadline,” Walsh said this week.

He said the contractor, North America Landscaping & Dredge Co., from Maryland, has now submitted a revised schedule and has gone to 24-hour operations in an attempt to catch up.

However, Walsh said in order to make the April 1 deadline, the company would have to get its pumps “running around the clock. He probably won’t make it if he’s not running 24-7.”

In all, Walsh said, the contractor has only extracted about 10,000 cubic yards of the 114,300 cubic yards of sediment that the company is supposed to remove from the river bed.

The Current was unable to reach a spokesman for the contractor prior to deadline.

Walsh said there are a number of reasons why the contractor is behind schedule. One is that the Army Corps had to go through a bid-protest process before North America Landscaping & Dredge Co. could officially get started on the project.

Another reason the dredge is behind schedule is because of the unusually harsh winter weather southern Maine has experienced since the project officially got under way in mid-February.

“There were a number of things working against us on this project,” Walsh added, including the fact that there is no possibility of an extension on the dredging contract.

By rule, Walsh said, the Army Corps is not allowed to dredge past March 31. “After that, the dredge (equipment) would have to leave the harbor and the contract would end.”

Since it’s a possibility that the dredging of the Scarborough River would not be completed on time, Walsh said he’s been “trying to figure out what would happen next.”

His goal would be to get another dredging contractor out into the river as soon as possible this coming fall.

“I know a lot of people have their eyes on this project. Hopefully (the contractor) can do it, but it’s going to be a challenge,” Walsh added.

Corbeau would very much like to see the dredging completed on time, but like Walsh is uneasy about the contractor being able to meet the deadline.

“I’ve been involved in four dredging projects over the course of my career and they’ve still got a ways to go,” he said.

Corbeau knows the contractor has faced numerous difficulties, including a broken hydraulic line, as well as “very difficult working conditions.” Even so, he said, the company has not yet put much sand on the beach.

If the dredge is not completed this spring, Corbeau said the commercial fishing fleet and the recreational boaters that all use Pine Point harbor would “make do with what we have. And hopefully we will get the project finished at some point.”

The last dredging of the Scarborough River was completed in 2005 and since then tides have shifted enough sediment to make boats moored in the harbor nearly landlocked at low tide.

The goal with the dredging project is that the sand brought up from the river bottom would be used to rebuild habitat for the endangered piping plover along Western and Ferry beaches.

The cost of this project to the Army Corps is $1.7 million and the contractor was hired to dig out an 8-foot-deep shipping channel at the mouth of the Scarborough River, as well as a 6-foot-deep anchorage area around the town pier at Pine Point.

Corbeau said the commercial fishermen would make do, as long as the shipping channel is mostly dredged out by the project deadline. “I think we could wait on the anchorage,” he said.

According to Jack Karalius, another project manager with the Army Corps, the dredging of the Fore River in South Portland and Portland is also behind schedule. However, he said that project is about 90 percent completed.

The Fore River dredge was supposed to be done by March 15, but Karalius said a 10-day extension was granted to the contractor, Cashman Dredging of Quincy, Mass., and the company now has until March 25.

The goal of the Fore River dredge is to remove about 700,000 cubic yards of sediment and the Army Corps is spending $9.2 million on the project.

The South Portland channel was last cleared in 1999, but since then the channel has filled in to a depth of 33 feet, which could cause problems for deep draft commercial vessels, such as oil tankers and cruise ships.

North America Landscaping & Dredge Co. has now moved to 24-hour operations in an attempt to meet its April 1 deadline for dredging the Scarborough River. File photo

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