Portland has received federal and state approval to build a disposal site for dredging spoils in Portland Harbor.

The Confined Aquatic Disposal Cell would be used if the city gets approval and funding to dredge the harbor.

Portland, South Portland, the Portland Harbor Commission and the state have been lobbying for years to get the harbor dredged. Officials said sediment has been building up in the harbor, costing both cities berthing spaces.

“We’re losing the best berths in the harbor,” Bill Needelman, Portland’s waterfront coordinator, said in a statement. “Commercial vessels want to be in protected water and that’s where sedimentation is the most rapid.”

Needleman said about 3,000 linear feet of commercial berthing space in the city’s central waterfront area is unusable due to sediment buildup. He also said some space that was intended for use by large vessels can now be used only by smaller boats because of reduced water depths.

Portland City Manager Jon Jennings said having approval for a CAD cell might improve the city’s prospects for federal funding to help with the estimated cost of $30 million for harbor dredging. Portland, South Portland and wharf owners would also pay part of the cost, but the bulk of the money would come from the federal government.


The most recent bid for federal funding was denied last fall.

“We need to get the dredging done. We don’t have a choice,” Jennings said in a statement Thursday. “Receiving the CAD cell permits from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) positions both cities to receive the funding needed to move forward.”

If funding for dredging is approved, officials will need to identify somewhere to dispose of the dredged material, which is often polluted with runoff from roads and rooftops along with contaminants from industry. A CAD cell is a deep hole that would be dredged into the harbor to provide a permanent site for the contaminated dredged material.

The material dredged to create the CAD cell is considered clean and can be disposed of at a site in federal waters about six miles off the coast of Cape Elizabeth.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection has issued a permit for dredging on both sides of the Fore River and the final permit for dredging from the Army Corps of Engineers is expected next month. Officials will need to make another request for federal funding in July.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.