BLUE HILL — A dredge of the town’s scenic inner harbor could mean access for all sizes of boats, no matter the tide, and thus increased economic activity for the town.
Main Street and its shops, restaurants and businesses are just feet from the inner harbor.
The Army Corps of Engineers has been considering a dredge since 1948, according to Blue Hill Harbormaster Denny Robertson. Robertson, who just turned 80, recalled his father working on the project.
“My father got a temporary position with them finding out best how deep they could go,” Robertson said.
The corps and the town have submitted a navigation improvement project to create a federal navigation channel. At the annual Town Meeting, held by ballot last year due to the pandemic, voters approved appropriating $20,000 to complete a dredging study.
Meanwhile, the Maine Department of Marine Resources is soliciting comments about how a dredge would affect fishing operations. The deadline to submit comments is Jan. 25. Those comments will be included in a report to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection with an assessment of the proposed dredging operation’s impacts on the fishing industry.
The dredge would create an 80-foot-wide channel from deep water to the town landing, according to a project description. The project would excavate approximately 71,500 cubic yards of sediment. Most of the material would be disposed offshore at the Eastern Passage Disposal Site (EPDS), 14 miles from the harbor, according to a public notice from DMR.
The proposed project would create a 2,500-foot-long federal channel and a 38,000-square-foot turning basin near the town landing.
Robertson does not expect dredging operations to affect fishing.
“I don’t think it will do a thing because there’s not much there for it to impact,” said Robertson. “It will impact clams some, but those are seldom dug. I can’t see what difference it makes to the lobster because they live under the mud anyway.”
“We did have a meeting some years ago for the fishermen up here that would either see it as an advantage or an impactful thing,” Robertson recalled. There were about 25 fishermen who attended. “They were positive on seeing it happen. They felt it was good at that time.”
Fisherman Jeremy Tyler of Blue Hill said as someone who fishes out of South Blue Hill, he didn’t think he should comment on the proposed impact to fishing. But, for the town itself Tyler sees a dredge as a potential benefit.
“The inner harbor is one of the prettiest harbors to sail into,” Tyler said. “I always thought it was a shame that we didn’t have an all-access pier no matter what the tide was so you can tie up and walk around town.”
Harbormaster Robertson said, “Personally, I’m for it.”
The sediment in the harbor was contaminated by a former leak in the town’s sewage treatment plant as well as several service stations that were located on Main Street decades ago.
“The boats did some, there’s no doubt,” Robertson said. “I don’t think they were the worst enemy.”
The feds have a plan for that.
“Approximately 10,500 cubic yards of the dredged material is unsuitable for open water disposal and will be placed in a newly constructed CAD cell in the harbor immediately adjacent and north of the channel,” the DMR stated. “The CAD cell construction will excavate approximately 15,500 cubic yards of sediment, which will also be disposed of at the EPDS. All dredging will be by mechanical dredge and scow. Construction will occur between Nov. 1 and April 1 and is expected to take three to four months to complete. The total dredge estimate is 87,000 cubic yards from approximately 31 acres of dredge area.”