The Barnstable Patriot
Posted Sep 13, 2018 at 8:30 AM
Barnstable moves ahead with Cotuit Cut dredging
On Sept. 6, Barnstable Town Council unanimously approved a $1 million capital appropriation to fund dredging Cotuit Bay Entrance Channel.
Barnstable Town Manager Mark Ells announced that the town was also awarded a $1 million MassWorks grant toward the project, which is designed to open up the channel and allow more natural flushing of nutrients.
“The only communities who got these (state) grants were communities that were ready to go,” Ells said. He added that the funding request and state grant came together is less than two months.
The 2018 pilot MassWorks program awards communities funding on a competitive basis, emphasizing shovel-ready projects that already have secured local, state, and federal permits. The program also requires a 50:50 match commitment from municipalities receiving the funding.
Dredging Cotuit Cut is scheduled to get underway Monday, Oct. 15, and continue through mid-January. The project will remove 44,000 cubic yards of sediment and coastal dune from the Cotuit Bay channel, increasing its width by 50 percent.
Another $2 million is earmarked for dredging the western end of Sampson’s Island, with disposal occurring on the eastern end of Dead Neck Island, in an amended version of H4868. The Economic Development Bond Bill was approved by the State Legislature and signed by Gov. Charlie Baker Aug. 21, but that next phase of funding has not yet been released.
Ells praised the Cape Cod legislative delegation for prioritizing coastal resiliency. He thanked Barnstable Clean Water Association (BCWA) for matching the project’s permitting costs, and he credited Dan Santos, director of the Barnstable Public Works Department, for devising a long-term, town-wide dredging schedule.
At the council’s Aug. 9 meeting, Ells and Santos presented that long-term dredging plan for 31 channels in the town, which is facing about a 10-year backlog.
Of the 31 dredging projects on the town’s wait list, 17 sites are considered as routine maintenance. Dredging the rest gets increasingly complicated due to fine-grain and silty sediments and water quality issues, like the excessive nutrient load in the Three Bays area.
“We’re looking to move about 40,000 cubic yards (of sediment) annually at an average cost of $1.5 million,” Ells said.
Councilor Jessica Rapp Grassetti, who represents Cotuit and Precinct 7, commended Ells and Santos for securing the state grant to dredge Cotuit Cut, a project she described as both important and political.
“Dredging will do wonders to flush the bay,” said Rapp Grassetti. “It’s a three-year permit, whose ownership is being transferred to the town. It should not be allowed to languish. We should not have to rely on private organizations to do it.”
In the 1960s, Rapp Grassetti said, the channel was a very long opening that provided “turnover water” to flush the bays.
“It became more and more dangerous as sands shifted east to west,” she said. “Sampson’s Island public beach often would need to be closed due to the extremely strong current, which also caused a couple of drownings. It’s been so long (since the channel’s been dredged) that the geography has changed.”
In the mid-1990s, several area residents worked to keep Dead Neck Island intact and save the land sitting behind that barrier island. They formed a private organization and raised more than $1.5 million to nourish the island’s barrier beach, owned by the Massachusetts Audubon Society.
According to BCWA, almost 300,000 cubic yards of sand has been deposited upon Dead Neck Island in the past 13 years to build the island back up and create critical habitat for endangered coastal shore birds.
“Among the many benefits of this restoration project, water quality in Cotuit Bay is expected to improve by three to seven percent,” Rapp Grassetti said.