U.S. Sen. Jack Reed has proposed almost $3 million in funding for two Block Island projects, one for dredging in Old Harbor and the other to do maintenance dredging in the entrance channel of the Great Salt Pond.
The monies are included in the 2019 Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations bill that was recently approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee, but will need final approval by the full Senate. The funding includes $2,550,000 for Old Harbor and $350,000 for dredging of the GSP channel.
“This legislation makes important investments in clean energy, scientific research, and protecting our coastline and waterways. I am pleased we were able to boost weatherization assistance, scientific research, and secure necessary funding for the Army Corps of Engineers to move forward with important projects around the state,” said Reed, who also said it was intended as a rejection of efforts by the Trump Administration to “slash funding for energy, science research, and water infrastructure.”
The measure also recommends a significant increase in the Army Corps of Engineers Continuing Authorities Program (CAP), which provides help to address environmental restoration, harbor infrastructure, and flood control issues throughout the country, including in Rhode Island, bringing funding up to $53.8 million. The bill also includes language from Reed urging the Army Corps of Engineers to consider natural infrastructure options such as shellfish reef and natural vegetation in projects to promote resiliency and reduce damage from coastal erosion, storm surge, and flooding.
The Army Corps of Engineers has oversight of federal channels on Block Island “and are required to provide maintenance,” said Coastal Resources Management Council’s head of Marine Infrastructure, Dan Goulet. The Corps’ dredging vessel, the Currituck, is a familiar sight, but wouldn’t be used for this project, he said.
Ed O’Donnell, Chief of Navigation for the Army Corps, said that the agency has “been dredging regularly so we’re not in bad shape” and there was no urgency to dredge the channels. The buildup was the result of “normal shoaling,” he said. At any rate, monies proposed for next year’s budget would not be allocated until some time in 2019, if then. O’Donnell said that in Old Harbor the dredging has primarily been at the entrance, but the amount of money proposed by the Appropriations bill indicates it may be for dredging the entire harbor.
Dredged sand is deposited either at Crescent Beach or at a spot located about halfway between the entrance of the Great Salt Pond and the old landfill at West Beach.
Harbormaster Steve Land said he was hopeful the monies would be appropriated.
“It would be wonderful for the boating and the Block Island community to get that done,” said Land.