May 25, 2018
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Federal disaster aid to help MMA

By Rich Hewitt, BDN Staff

CASTINE, Maine — Maine Maritime Academy is expected to gain access to federal aid money to repair the waterfront bulkhead that was damaged this spring by heavy wind and rains.

President Barack Obama last week approved Gov. John Baldacci’s request for federal disaster assistance for Hancock and York counties caused by severe storms in March and early April. According to Ralph Pinkham, director of the Hancock County Emergency Management Agency, that designation jump-starts a process that could make federal funding available to the college to help with the repairs along the waterfront.

The designation makes nonprofit organizations and municipalities eligible for grant funding to repair damage from the storm, according to Pinkham. The federal government will cover 75 percent of the cost of approved repairs.

Pinkham said the damage in Hancock County came from several large rain events between March 12 and April 1 that caused damage mainly in York and Hancock counties. The initial estimates of damage totaled $1.6 million, according to a preliminary damage assessment. In Hancock County, Pinkham said, the most damage was done at the MMA waterfront where damage was estimated at $600,000.

Those were initial estimates, Pinkham said, and a more formal review of the damage by inspectors from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will have to take place before a final determination is made.

Pinkham said he expects to meet with those seeking grant assistance on July 15. In addition to MMA, the town of Surry also made an initial request for disaster funding.

“They were the only ones to request grant assistance to repair damage,” Pinkham said. “There may be others to come forward.”

The process can move fairly quickly, he said, and funding could be available within a couple of months.

In Surry, the storms caused damage to riprap at Carrying Place Beach on the Newbury Neck Road, according to Selectman Stephen Bemiss.

In Castine, wind and heavy rain battered the bulkhead along the MMA waterfront causing the large bolts that hold the bulkhead wall in place to let go, according to Tim Leach, MMA’s marine operations manager.

“We lost about 75 to 100 feet of wall,” Leach said this week. “There’s another 75 feet of wall that’s still in place, but it’s not in good shape.”

The damage did not affect the main dock where the college’s training vessel is berthed, but it will have an effect on the small boat fleet, Leach said. The damaged bulkhead also supported the floats where many of MMA’s small vessels tie up.

“This has taken out about 150 feet of float space,” he said.

The smaller vessels will have to be ferried back and forth more often until the bulkhead is repaired, Leach said.

The college already is developing plans for the repairs. According to Stacy Ericson, MMA’s director of facilities, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection has issued a permit for the repairs under an accelerated review process, and architects are developing the detailed engineering plans for the project.

MMA hopes to have the project completed this fall, Ericson said.

“A lot will depend on the federal process,” she said. “We’d like to put it out to bid in August and start work by mid-September.”

That may be an optimistic schedule, she said. But the work is not expected to take very long to be completed, she added, and even a later start could see the project completed by October.

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