A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers graphic shows a proposed route for dredging of the Saco River if the project is approved and funded by the U.S. Senate. COURTESY PHOTO

A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers graphic shows a proposed route for dredging of the Saco River if the project is approved and funded by the U.S. Senate. COURTESY PHOTO

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Susan Collins has announced that the Senate Appropriations Committee has greenlighted more than $7 million in funding for maintenance dredging of the Saco River, York Harbor and Wells Harbor.

Project funding was included in the Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill at the request of Collins, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“Small ports and harbors are the economic lifeblood for many of our small coastal communities,” Collins said. “I appreciate that this bill supports the water infrastructure needs of states like Maine, including the funding for the maintenance dredging of the Saco River, York Harbor, and Wells Harbor. I worked with the Army Corps of Engineers to advance these projects, which are critical for fishermen and other users of these ports and waterways.”

In May, Collins met with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers New England District Commander Colonel Christopher Barron and NAE Civil Project Management Division Chief Janet Harrington. 

At that meeting, Collins emphasized a significant and urgent need for dredging the waterways.

Last fall, Collins, U.S. Sen. Angus King and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree sent a joint letter encouraging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to move forward with the dredging projects.

“In allocating funds that Congress makes available to the corps each year for the operation and maintenance of our nation’s water infrastructure, the law requires the corps to consider factors other than tonnage transiting through a harbor, to include potential for regional or local economic development,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter.

Commercial activity on the Saco River — home to more than 40 commercial fishing vessels —contributes more than $53 million in economic impact to the community each year, and York Harbor produces a direct economic benefit of $12 million annually.

“To address these critical needs and maintain our essential water infrastructure, we urge you to prioritize funding in this fiscal year for the maintenance dredging of both the York Harbor and Saco River projects, consistent with all applicable laws and regulations,” the lawmakers wrote. 

The letter was sent to Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy, who supervises the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Civil Works program, which is responsible for dredging to maintain channel depths in U.S. harbors and inland waterways.

The York Harbor project will dredge 5.4 acres on the north side of the harbor at an 8-foot depth and 4.5 acres between Harris and Bragdon Islands.

The Wells Harbor project begins at the end of the jetty extension and runs to the 6-foot Inner Channel about 270 feet upstream to the south end of Town Landing.

The Saco River was last dredged in 1992. The new project would remove more than 150,000 cubic yards of sand and silt, some of which has played a part in the ongoing erosion problems at Camp Ellis Beach. The project is expected to last two months and runs from Half-Tide Island to Camp Ellis.  

The Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill will now be considered and voted upon by the full Senate.

— Executive Editor Ed Pierce can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 326, or by email at [email protected]


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