Federal grant to fund $5 million Milford harbor dredging project

MILFORD — Milford will receive a $5 million federal grant to dredge the Milford Harbor, which has not been done since 1988.

Mayor Ben Blake was joined by U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal Tuesday at Lisman Landing for the announcement of the funding the dredging work, which will be done by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Blake said the Army Corps of Engineer brought the Currituck, a special-purpose type of hopper dredger, to work on the mouth of the harbor, and the city has done the dredging at the head of the harbor within the last 10 years, but the federal channel hasn’t been dredged 1988.

“Over the last many years, we have had silt and debris make this harbor not safely navigable,” he said.

Blake said for these types of infrastructure projects, there will be some local cost-share, but he said he was pleased the federal government, through the infrastructure bill, is coming to help maintain the federal channel and the federal anchorage alongside both sides of the harbor.

“We are grateful that we will soon have a safe navigable harbor that boats can get in and out without getting stuck,” he added.

Blake said many recreational boaters use the harbor during the boating season, but they are not the only ones who take advantage of the harbor’s location.

“We also have a significant commercial fleet,” he said. “We have homeland security vessels that come in, and out of this harbor. We have our police, fire and first responders that utilize this harbor to make sure that not just Milford waters are safe for boaters, but also all of Long Island Sound is safe.”

DeLauro, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee Chair, said officials began working on the project in May 2020.

“The Water Resources Act was passed in December of 2020, and that was what we call, the authorization and the funding come after, and that’s when appropriations come in,” she said. “It’s important to note that this is $5 million to deal with this issue.”

The Army Corps of Engineers — which DeLauro calls one of the best agencies at the federal level — will do the actual dredging.

“What happens here is we will receive the guidelines on implementation within the next couple of weeks. That will layout the timeline of how the money will flow and the timing of the project as well,” DeLauro said. “We will be all over this in making sure we can move as quickly as possible to get the process started. These things don’t happen overnight, but we want to make sure we have the money in hand as quickly as possible.”

“And then the dredging will begin the next day,” added Blumenthal.

The city’s hope is for the work to take place after the boating season so some docks can be moved around, stated Blake.

“We have helix moorings that hold floatable docks in the middle of the channel, so we’ll have to move those to dredge. So we are going to have to do this project sometime after or before the boating season,” Blake said.

DeLauro said federal resources are being focused on infrastructure. Before coming to Milford, DeLauro said she was in New Haven, where she announced $160.3 million in Hurricane Ida federal relief funds for the New Haven County Coastal Storm Risk Management Project.

There also is a bridge replacement program and $600 million in the Build Back Better Act for maritime administration that Connecticut is eligible for, she said.

“My point is, there is a substantial commitment by the federal government to invest in infrastructure,” she said.

Blumenthal said the project is about job-creating and economics, but it is also about environmental stewardship.

“Preserving and enhancing the beauty of this precious coastline that we call home,” he said. “What dredging does is to unlock the potential for boating, economic activity, for job-creating and for environmental beauty and preciousness of this coastline.”

That is why Connecticut’s habors need to be maintained, Blumenthal said.

“They are gateways to commerce and recreational activities,” he said.

Blake said Milford is unique because the city-owned marina, train station and downtown area converge in one spot.

“All the shops and the restaurants that people frequent in the downtown area, we have a lot of traffic that comes from boaters, as we have a lot of people that come to Milford by boat,” he said.

This is a great project, Blumenthal said, not just because of the potential to create jobs and protect the environment, but also because the federal government has ignored its responsibility for navigable waters, he said.

“The new infrastructure program makes this all possible,” he said. We are talking about a historic infrastructure, more than $1 trillion. $5 million seems like a tiny little pebble in a vast ocean, but it’s going to make an enormous difference.”

The dredging part is part of a larger project involving replacing the moorings and the anchors, stated Blumenthal.

“So we are going to be fighting for more resources that can finish the job,” he said.