SEABROOK — With funding secured for the dredging of Hampton Harbor in 2019, New Hampshire's U.S. senators promised stakeholders Friday they would push for the final steps of the project to be completed so the work can definitely take place.
Democratic U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan said so in a meeting with fishermen, harbor business owners and local and state officials at Yankee Fisherman's Cooperative, which sits on the Seabrook side of the harbor. They successfully advocated for $4.6 million to be placed in the Army Corps of Engineers' 2019 work plan, approved last month, and said Friday they plan to make sure the project's final hurdles are overcome.
Permitting from state and federal authorities still needs to be acquired for the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the harbor, according to Corps officials. Actual quotes from construction companies, they said, are also still needed to confirm the $4.6 million allocated for the project is enough to fund it.
"There's a whole process for what has to happen now for the actual dredging to get done," Shaheen told stakeholders inside the fishing cooperative. "We will do everything to expedite that as quickly as possible."
The harbor was last dredged in 2013, but shoaling has caused sand to pile up in the harbor so that boats have difficulty moving in and out. Many captains say their boats have been getting stuck when the tide is low and that the problem has rapidly worsened in the last few years.
Shaheen said she has heard from fishermen of the problems they have faced since the shoaling has worsened the harbor's conditions. One fisherman, she said, told her how he has gotten stuck outside the harbor for four hours because the tide was too low to re-enter.
Ed O'Donnell, chief of the navigation section in the Corps' New England district, said the project would begin in October 2019 and be completed by the following February. He said the Corps will know this coming February whether permits are approved, and he said it will not be until this spring 2019 that bids go out for the construction contract.
He said there is no guarantee those loose ends will be tied up so that the project can begin next fall, but he said it is likely. The fact the funding has been secured for the project, he said, is promising.
"If I were a betting man, I'd bet it would happen, but there's many, many things that can happen along the way," said O'Donnell. "Ninety percent chance, it's going to happen."