By Michael Holtzman
Herald News Staff Reporter
It’s been a banner couple of weeks for Swansea and its waterfront revitalization project for the 9-acre town beach.
SWANSEA –It’s been a banner couple of weeks for Swansea and its waterfront revitalization project for the 9-acre town beach.
After several years of pursuit, they have in hand the the final permit needed from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredging permit for the Cole River and adjacent Mount Hope Bay to re-nourish the town beach with more than 15,000 cubic acres of sand as the foundation of the Swansea waterfront restoration project.
On Wednesday afternoon on Hyannis, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito announced Swansea had been awarded a $728,184 state “navigational pilot dredging program” grant to remove river sediment.
“This project will support the Swansea waterfront revitalization initiative, which aims to stimulate tourism and related businesses along the Cole River through enhancements to navigation, public spaces, and recreational opportunities.
“The project will nourish a public coastal beach, build capacity for public mooring space and restore all-tide navigation for commercial shellfishing and recreational boating,” said a press release from the Baker-Politio administration.
Swansea’s dredging grant was among 10 awarded totaling $3.6 million, and the second largest behind Barnstable receiving $1 million.
“Dredging is essential to ensuring that the Commonwealth’s harbors grow in a safe, environmentally sound, and economically prosperous manner,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton.
“Wonderful! … It finally came through,” Carole Hyland said Tuesday about the Army Corps permit to proceed.
An original member since 2010 of the waterfront committee charged with revitalizing the beach that’s had several highs and lows, on Wednesday she returned ecstatic from the Cape with fellow member Fran Kelly and Town Administrator John McAuliffe.
“We were so happily surprised,” Hyland said. “It gives you such a good feeling when you do apply and are rewarded … It will be so wonderful for the children to have a bigger beach.”
She said with dredging the first priority of the project, the grant should help ensure landscaping, walkways and “little extra things” can be done.
“It’s exciting for the community. It’s exciting for the waterfront project,” said Selectmen Chairman Derek Heim, who’s strongly supported its progress. He praised state officials for the funding and a persistent committee led by Chairman Christopher Sampson.
“I’m extremely excited that the project continues to breathe some life,” Heim said.
Referring to one town meeting re-vote when funding was not approved and a lesser amount later was, Heim said, “This is what the taxpayers asked us to do.”
He was hopeful the full-scale project would be developed, which would include a 5,000 square-foot open air pavilion.
Selectman Christopher Carreiro, the former board chairman, said Polito strongly encouraged the town to apply for this dredging grant. It’s administered by the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development.
“We’re in a really excellent position,” Carreiro said of prospects to fully fund this project that had been estimated at upwards of $5 million.
“It’s really good news for the town,” committee member and Conservation Agent Colleen Brown said of the essential federal permit she forwarded and said the town received the prior week.
Each of the committee members reached noted they’re working with a known tight time table now to perform the dredging.
Because of spawning seasons in the channels that will be dredged, their window for this work is Nov. 16 to Jan. 14.
The dredging permit issued to Sampson by Barbara Newman, New England district engineer, allows:
• The hydraulic dredging of approximately 5,960 cubic yards of sand from 5.69 acres of the Cole River channel for supplemental beach re-nourishment and ensure safe passage through the channel, the permit says.
The location and depths are the same as the last time the town dredged the river more than 20 years ago in 1997.
Two new areas for navigational improvement and sand mining to nourish the beach.
• The hydraulic dredging of the eastern shoal adjacent to the channel in Mount Hope Bay of approximately 9,610 cubic yards of sand from about a 2.65-acre area if various depths.
• Another 2,700 cubic yards of sand near the Cole River boat ramp from approximately .79 acres to a 10-foot-2-inch depth.
In total, 18,260 cubic yards of sand will be used as beach nourishment along 2.67 acres, while 100 cubic yards will be used for dunes restoration in a 3,000 square-foot area, the permit says.
Hyland, having observed the prior dredging, said it’s a uniquely exciting process. With the dredging equipment in the channel and the nearby bay, workers will attach pipes from a barge and lay them along the beach all the way to the location of the old Bluffs building the town had demolished in May as part of the project.
“It’s like a huge vacuum cleaner,” she said of the beach re-nourishing, bringing the dredged sand to the beach. The sand is brought to the end point, and as each section is filled up with new sand the workers remove sections of pipe, Hyland said.
They’ve sought the dredging permit for three or four years, and have had to work through close evaluations for sea life along the shore by the National Marine Fisheries Service that have contributed to delays obtaining the permit, she said.
A press release in May from the Army Corps in conjunction with the fisheries service said approximately 9.12 acres of “essential fish habitat” will be impacted by the dredging.
“However, the corps has made a preliminary determination that the site specific adverse effect will not be substantial,” they wrote three months ago before a comment period and issuing a 10-year permit through Aug. 16, 2028.
While it includes a list of conditions, Brown, the town conservation agent, said none would create problems to meet.
Hyland said their marine engineer and the assistant to John McAuliffe, Jordan Remy, are working on bid specifications for the dredging project.
In a specialized field, Hyland said the committee is hopeful Barnstable County, which has two dredging crews, would be available during the upcoming two-month span they could do the work. Besides their proficiency, she said the cost could be considerably less than a private company doing the work.
In a project that has had several funding votes, last year at a town meeting voters approved $1.2 million needed to augment about $500,000 remaining in start-up funds to do the feeder beach. It’s designed from a Danish sand replenishment cycle so the laborious dredging won’t need frequent restoration, officials have said.
The town a year ago also received a $1 million Seaport Economic Council grant to construct its first building, a 36-by-36 bathhouse for changing, lifeguards and medical area, while keeping showers outdoors and simple.
The town’s design and construction engineer is also preparing specifications for that project, Hyland said, stating the building will be done as a separate project from the dredging.
Coupled with the state contributing $100,000 toward demolishing The Bluffs in May and another $100,000 for a new pedestrian beach area with benches on Bay Street and Ocean Grove Avenue as part of Swansea’s 350th anniversary celebration, the state has funded nearly $2 million for the waterfront revitalization project.
Hyland, a long-time town beach committee member, also noted that during an uncertain beach period, “we’ve had a really good summer down there.”
Use of the beach and the boat ramp, quahoging and other recreational uses have been high, she said. With entry and parking shifted since The Bluffs was demolished, lifeguards and staff will remain in place through Labor Day, and gates will be open from 9 a.m. to about 8:30 p.m. through Columbus Day.
“Everyone wants to know when we’re going to get going,” she said, about the beach restoration project.
Email Michael Holtzman at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 508-676-2573.