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Town seeks extension in Wellfleet Harbor dredge

December 29, 2020 | Denise Coffey | Website

The Quincy-based dredging and marine contracting company is supposed to finish dredging a portion of Wellfleet Harbor by Thursday. That date marks the end of the season for the disposal of dredge spoils at the Cape Cod Bay Disposal Area.

But the presence of right whales near the disposal area could complicate efforts to get work done by the end of the year, and town officials say an extension is unlikely.

Joseph Aberdale, who co-chairs the town's Dredge Task Force, said the company will come close to dredging the majority of the 48,000 cubic yards the town wanted removed. About 32,000 cubic yards are expected to be removed, more than the minimum threshold of 30,000 cubic yards called for in the company's contract.

There is a slim chance that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will approve an extension for the project to continue through Jan.15.

“We don’t think that’s going to happen,” Assistant Town Administrator Michael Trovato said.

Right whales have been spotted in Cape Cod Bay where the dredged material is disposed of. The population of the endangered animals is down to below 400, and it's believed that the Army Corps will give preference to the whales’ welfare over the extension.

Aberdale and task force co-chair Christopher Allgeier will be ready to give the authorization for the continuance if it receives approval from the Army Corps. If the extension isn't approved, the town would have to pay Cashman to wait to finish the work.

The dredge permit expires at midnight on Thursday. The town will have to pay Cashman $45,000 a day if they want the company to wait for an approval.

Aberdale and Allgeier, together with Trovato and Assistant Harbormaster William Sullivan, will make a decision on Thursday about whether and how long they want Cashman to wait for the extension.

On Monday, the committee indicated a willingness to wait one or two days at the most.

A more likely scenario is that the remaining material will be dredged in October. The $2.6 million contract with Cashman is based on removing 163,800 cubic yards of spoils from Area One, which is situated around the town pier, boat launch and fuel pumps. The company was able to begin the project this year after the Army Corps completed its dredge of the federal channel.

The number of cubic yards the company actually draws out is what they’ll be paid for, Trovato said.

Aberdale expects that the rest of Area One can be dredged in 2021. The town could conceivably begin dredging in Area Two in the fall, where an estimated 269,000 cubic yards are set to be removed from the mooring area in the harbor.

But there are a few roadblocks standing in the way of permits for Area Two.

Because it’s been more than 50 years since Area Two was last dredged, it’s considered a “new” dredge project. With that distinction, more requirements and obligations are needed to secure the necessary permitting, according to Aberdale.

The National Marine Fisheries Service has signaled some objections to the town’s dredge plan for Area Two. The area has been characterized as a beneficial mud flat with living organisms by the DMF, Aberdale said.

“We need to enter into a phase of negotiation with the fisheries service and the Corps,” he said.

Aberdale expects the town will have to come up with mitigation plans in the form of cash payments, an environmental project or a combination of both that will offset the impact of the “new” dredging in Area Two.

The task force could begin to work on possible mitigation efforts as early as next week.