Housatonic River dredging project postponed

The combined Housatonic River dredging and Hammonasset State Park beach nourishment  project originally slated to begin in November will be postponed until next October.

The newly-formed Connecticut State Port Authority made the decision to postpone the project. It was announced publicly at the Port Authority’s October meeting by dredging advocate Joseph Salvatore.

Bill Rock, dredging chairman of the Stratford Waterfront and Harbor Management Commission, said Monday that the decision was made due to the availability of larger dredging companies.

“Although every aspect of the complex process clearing the way to dredge the Housatonic River and deposit the sand on the beach in Hammonasset had been completed prior to the start of the bidding process by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mr. Salvatore informed us that the decision had been made to postpone the project based on the availability of the larger dredging companies to bid on the job,” Rock said. “Many companies had already been committed to contracts for other dredging projects throughout the country. By waiting until next year, the bidding field would be more competitive, thus saving the state money.”

The process of completing the multitude of tasks necessary prior to actually dredging was already on a tight schedule but was moving quickly. Salvatore said things slowed possibly due to the formation of the newly established state Port Authority in July. When the project was conceived, it was under the jurisdiction of the Connecticut Department of Transportation. All maritime activities were then transferred to the State Port Authority. This resulted in the State’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection receiving the go ahead to issue a Water Quality Certificate a little later than originally planned.

An agreement between DEEP and the Connecticut chapter of the National Audubon Society to monitor activity of piping plovers at Hammonasset State Park following the distribution of the sand on the beach also needed to be penned.

“I want to thank the Stratford legislative delegation, led by the efforts of Rep. Laura Hoydick, for their help with resolving these issues. Without these items completed the Army Corps of Engineers could not put this project out to bid,” Rock said.

Salvatore also said at the Port Authority meeting that by waiting a year “we will be able to dredge a larger quantity of sand from the river and provide more for the beach.” If it was started this year and not completed and then continued next year, costs would be increased dramatically, he said.

Ed O’Donnell of the Army Corps of engineers stated the project will formally go out to bid on Dec. 1 to qualified dredging companies to start the job in October 2017. This gives plenty of notice to potential contractors to respond competitively.

“On behalf of the Waterfront Commission and the town of Stratford, we are grateful for the work, support and cooperation on the part of all the agencies involved in this process and look forward to a successful dredging of 250,000 to 300,000 cubic yards of sand from the Housatonic federal channel in October of 2017,” Rock said. “Joe Salvatore has assured us that funds will remain in place for this project. This still remains a win / win for both the town and the state.”