BLUE HILL, Maine – The town has spent $100,000 in recent years to explore the feasibility of dredging Blue Hill Harbor, but the town still has no cost estimates for the project, and it doesn’t know when it will have the information.
That’s because the town is waiting on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to finish an analysis on the potential dredging project, and the Army Corps — the federal agency responsible for maintaining harbors and ports — is asking the town for more money to complete the job.
Board Chairman Vaughn Leach said he wrote the corps last Friday to remind it of the looming project and to express the board’s frustration that the corps is taking so long to finish an analysis of the harbor it began and has been working on intermittently since about 2014.
Selectmen are considering dredging the harbor to create a navigation channel that would make the harbor more useful and accessible to lobstermen, recreational boaters and downtown businesses. The harbor is wide, about five miles in circumference, but most of the town end of it empties at low tide, leaving the town dock accessible to boats only at high tide – a handful of hours a day.
Corps representatives told the board almost a year ago that they would need another $20,000 or so to finish their work. This frustrated selectmen, because they had already allocated about $100,000 to the effort over several years, Leach said.
“My first thought,” Leach said recently, “was, ‘oh really?’”
Leach explained to the corps representatives that the board couldn’t just allocate another $20,000 without holding a town meeting – something that the corps, given its lengthy association with the town, should have known, Vaughn said.
The corps representatives agreed to send a report to the town after the board said it couldn’t appropriate that kind of money without a town vote, Leach said.
The report’s greatest value, Selectwoman Ellen Best said, will be its estimates of the project’s cost. The town has spent about $100,000 on corps studies of the harbor without seeing a final report.
Tim Dugan, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers in Concord, Massachusetts, said that the corps still needs additional federal or local funding to finish the work on the harbor and, as of Tuesday, doesn’t know when that will happen.
“Due to the need for additional sediment sampling and testing identified during the study, and the need to secure additional federal and local funds to pay for those efforts, more time has been needed to get to the draft report stage,” Dugan said in an email. “Once the report has cleared internal review it will be released for public review.
“We don’t have a timeline to release the report because we don’t know when we’ll get additional funds to complete that required sediment sampling and testing identified during the study, and then complete the final internal review,” he added.