Lawmakers: Dredging essential to Cape Ann 

MIKE SPRINGER/Staff file photoCape Ann's congressional delegation has called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to come up with an additional $2.4 million needed to dredge shallow parts of the Annisquam River and start the project in October as planned.

Gloucester’s congressional delegation is urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to pony up the additional $2.4 million necessary so the long-sought dredging of the Annisquam River can begin on time on Oct. 1.

In a letter to the commander of the Army Corps’ New England District, U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton and U.S. Sens. Edward J. Markey and Elizabeth Warren stated the project — to remove sand, silt and gravel to return the river and portions of the Lobster Cove anchorage to fully navigable channels — is essential to protect Cape Ann public safety, transportation and commerce.

“Portions of the river and parts of the cove have become so shallow that they prohibit access by emergency vessels,” the delegation wrote to Col. William M. Conde, commander of the Army Corps’ New England District. “Multiple areas of shoaling are also decreasing the navigable passage open to commercial lobstermen and fishermen.”

They also point out that the clock is ticking on the project that is scheduled to begin Oct. 1 and stretch over two dredging seasons. Any delays, they said, only will make matters worse.

“Given the threats to public safety, transportation and commerce on Cape Ann, we believe it is critical that remediation efforts begin as planned on Oct. 1,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter.

The Annisquam River was last dredged in 1963 and the city has been working for about seven years to gain approval from the Army Corps for a new dredging project.

The Army Corps allocated $5.4 million in its fiscal year 2019 to pay for the bulk of the estimated $6 million project. The remainder was expected to be funded with matching funds from the city.

But on Aug. 2, the Army Corps — and city officials — were hit with sticker shock when project managers opened the only two bids received for the project.

The $13,688,500 bid from Salem-based Burnham Associates was more than double the Army Corps’ own cost estimate. The $11,404,525 bid from Coastline Consulting of Branford, Connecticut, offered no salvation.

That left city officials scrambling to find the additional $2.4 million to allow the Army Corps and its contractor to complete very basic elements of the dredging plan — removing about 400,000 cubic yards of sand from shoaled areas along the federal channel.

Erika Mark, project manager, said the Army Corps has held off canceling the project to see if the city can identify and secure the additional $2.4 million necessary to start the project on time.

If not, she said, the bid solicitation will be canceled with an eye toward later rescheduling the bid solicitation. The original $5.4 million will remain attached to the project.

Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or shorgan@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT.

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