STRATFORD \u2014 A major dredging project will take nearly 300,000 cubic yards of clean, fine sand from the Housatonic River\u2019s shallow navigation channel and move it to Connecticut\u2019s premier beachfront park. The sand is headed to Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, as the dredging is expected to begin this week, officials said. The dredging will take the channel to its authorized depth and width from the mouth of the Housatonic, between Milford and Stratford to about five miles upstream. More than 1,000 vessels are based in the river and harbor; some occasionally run aground. So the project will see two benefits \u2014 one for boaters who use the river, and the other for beachgoers at Hammonasset. \u201cFor the first time since 1976, the channel will finally be dredged to a depth of at least 18 foot deep and 200 feet wide from just south of Goose Island to just beyond the end of the breakwater at the mouth of the river,\u201d said William Rock, a member of the Stratford Waterfront and Harbor Management Commission and chairman of its dredge committee. He added, \u201cNot only will this facilitate long-term safe navigation for all vessels, but it will present new opportunities relating to the water-dependent aspects of the redevelopment of the Stratford Army Engine Plant, which has the potential to become the premier destination on Long Island Sound.\u201d The last dredging of the Housatonic was in November 2012, when the Corps\u2019 dredge Currituck removed about 50,000 yards of shoal material. However, this was classified as a \u201cmaintenance dredge\u201d for it just removed sand deposited from earlier storms. This time, the sand will be transported by barge to re-nourish the eroding beach at Hammonasset. There, the sand will be pumped onto the beach and moved by bulldozers. Hammonassett attracts 1 million visitors a year. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded the $9.3 million contract to Cashman Dredging and Marine Contracting Co. of Quincy, Mass. The work will be performed over three to four months, now through Jan. 31, for shoals inside Milford Point, and now through Feb. 28 for shoals seaward of Milford Point.