A view of downtown Biddeford, from across the Saco River on Water Street in Saco on Wednesday.

A view of downtown Biddeford, from across the Saco River on Water Street in Saco on Wednesday.

BIDDEFORD — Residents who want to give input on a proposal to dredge the Saco River can do so this month.

The Army Corps of Engineers, in conjunction with the cities of Saco and Biddeford and the state of Maine, is working on a proposal to dredge the river to restore a federal navigation channel.

There is no federal funding for the $3.2 million project in the 2016-17 work cycle, but officials are hoping to get funding in 2018, said Saco City Administrator Kevin Sutherland.

The proposed dredging would remove 150,000 cubic yards of sand from an area of about 77 acres, project manager Craig Martin of the Army Corps’ New England District, Programs/ Project Management Division, said in a written statement. The work would take about two months to complete and be performed in the fall or winter months, said Martin.

According to Martin, the channel has not been dredged since the early 1990s. Ideally, it should be dredged about every 10 years, said Saco Public Works Director Patrick Fox.

“It’s long overdue,” he said.

Fox said the proposed dredging would provide an 8-foot-deep channel. There are currently spots of the river that are extremely shallow at low tide.

The Army Corps is proposing different places to dispose of the dredged sentiment, including as beach nourishment for Camp Ellis and a site in the Saco River.

The Biddeford City Council Tuesday night voted to send a statement to the Army Corps that it would like to see the sand taken to a location other than the Saco River. City Manager Jim Bennett said he wanted the city to get an “on the record” statement during the public comment stage.

Biddeford city grant writer Christine Ohman said at Tuesday’s meeting that the city was not in favor of putting the sand back in the river, because it wasn’t in the best interest of longevity for the project.

Although many people would like to see the sand placed in Camp Ellis to help offset erosion from the Saco Jetty, disposing sand at Camp Ellis could add $750,000 to $1 million to the project, and officials are exploring less costly alternatives.

The proposal is currently in the public input stage. Public comments should be sent no later than April 30 to: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District, Programs/Project Management Division (ATTN: Mr. Craig Martin), 696 Virginia Road, Concord, MA 01742-2751; or by email to [email protected] mil.

— Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 325 or [email protected]


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