Town Seeks To Tap Waterways User Funds For Bulkhead At 90 Bridge St.

by Alan Pollock
Crews conduct final clean-up work following the dredging at 90 Bridge St. ALAN POLLOCK PHOTO Crews conduct final clean-up work following the dredging at 90 Bridge St. ALAN POLLOCK PHOTO

CHATHAM – The town’s water-related committees are endorsing the use of waterways user funds to help meet the cost of installing a new bulkhead at 90 Bridge St., part of a broader project to install a shellfish upweller and commercial and recreational boating facilities there.

The project began with the dredging of the area just offshore, making room for future floating docks and a pier to support the upweller building – the former Coast Guard boathouse from Stage Island that’s being donated for that purpose. The dredging is complete, with crews cleaning up the site early this week, and Coastal Resources Director Ted Keon said he hoped to have the bulkhead and pier work started this spring.

“But the costs of that were significant, relative to what we have available. So to keep this project going, we are recommending you move forward with the bulkhead only,” he told the waterways advisory committee last week. “No matter what happens at the site, the bulkhead has been one of the very high priority features.”

Based on designs recently received, the bulkhead construction is expected to cost about $2.3 million, though the exact figure won’t be known until the project is put to bid. That is expected to happen shortly, Keon said. “Funding-wise, we had the $1 million Seaport [Economic Council] grant, and it would be applied to this project,” he said. The town still has the authorization to borrow up to $2.3 million under a waterways bond, “but we want to sort of husband those monies moving forward,” Keon said. For that reason, staff is proposing the use of $800,000 from waterways user funds to support the bulkhead project.

The waterways committee has previously opined that waterways user fee funds should be reserved for projects that benefit a wide range of boaters, rather than a single user group like commercial fishermen or shellfishermen. The town is allowed to withdraw up to $1 million each fiscal year to support water-related projects. The south coastal harbor plan committee and the shellfish advisory committee each endorsed the use of waterways user funds for the bulkhead, and the matter was set to go before the final committee, the Aunt Lydia’s Cove committee, on Feb. 28.

The waterways committee didn’t want to use waterways user funds for the nearby trap dock project, which benefits commercial fishermen exclusively.

“This type of project would be a more appropriate use, since the funds are coming from a more well-rounded group than just simply the commercial folks,” Keon said. While some view the 90 Bridge St. project as primarily an upweller for the shellfish program, it also includes dockage for recreational boats, a public access pier and a commercial unloading dock.

Harbormaster Stuart Smith said voters approved the ambitious project on the basis of it being a multi-use facility.

“We shouldn’t lose sight of that,” he said. “I think you’re going to have a very difficult time at town meeting if the multi-use [requirement] is somehow not followed through with.”