Massachusetts: Baker-Polito Administration Announces $2.4 Million in Dredging Assistance for Gloucester’s Annisquam River

GLOUCESTER — Today, Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito joined Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken, Congressman Seth Moulton, members of the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and other state and local officials to announce a $2.4 million Massachusetts Dredging Program award for the Annisquam River Dredging Project. Today's award, which Governor Baker announced at the Gloucester Coast Guard station, is in addition to $4.1 million in state funds awarded to five communities since March 2019 in the Commonwealth's first-ever Massachusetts Dredging Program grant round to support dredging in coastal communities.

Today's Gloucester award will support a federal maintenance dredging project that leverages $5.7 million in federal funding to address dangerous shoaling conditions that have reduced available depths in the Annisquam River to as little as negative one foot Mean Lower Low Water (MLLW), and created hazardous or impossible conditions for many vessels at low tides, including lobster and commercial fishing boats.

"The success of last year's Navigational Dredging Pilot Grant program highlighted the impact of investing in locally focused initiatives and led us to create the Massachusetts Dredging Program to continue to support the priorities of seaside cities and towns and bolster our maritime and tourism economies," said Governor Charlie Baker. "The dredging of the Annisquam River will immediately benefit Gloucester's commercial fishing operations, significantly enhance public safety emergency response and improve navigation for all who take advantage of this natural resource."

"As the chair of the Seaport Economic Council, I am acutely aware of the opportunities and challenges facing our 78 coastal communities, and our administration is pleased to partner with cities and towns on critical projects like saltwater dredging and climate resiliency to strengthen and protect these natural assets," said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. "We are proud of the investments made to date, and are eager to continue to support innovative, locally-driven initiatives that ensure the success of the Commonwealth's blue economy."

Earlier this year, Lt. Governor Polito announced a $1 million grant from the Seaport Economic Council to the City of Gloucester for improvements to the Harbormaster Office and Visiting Boater Center also located on the Annisquam River. The award will support the harbormaster in meeting the demands of the growing number of visiting and local boaters, especially as the dredging project improves navigation for all.

"The Massachusetts Dredging Program is an important economic catalyst for coastal communities and the Commonwealth's blue economy," said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy. "We are committed to responding to the unique needs of our cities and towns, and our new dredging program is an excellent example of how the Baker-Polito Administration continues to partner with municipalities to support economic growth."

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in partnership with the City of Gloucester, will remove an estimated 140,000 cubic yards of material from approximately 20 acres of the Annisquam River, including a significant portion of the Lobster Cove anchorage. This project will restore the federal channel and anchorage to their authorized depth of -8.0 feet MLLW. Construction is expected to take two seasons and will occur within the construction window of October 1 to January 31 of any given year.

Public safety vessels are also severely impacted by the river's water levels as the U.S. Coast Guard now required to navigate its standard lifeboat around Cape Ann in order to respond to search and rescue cases on the north end of the river. This detour adds more than 45 minutes of transit time on calm weather days, and currently, only the Coast Guard's small response boats can navigate the Annisquam River, with reduced speeds still required during lower stages of the tide.

"Thank you to the Baker-Polito Administration and the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development for this important grant funding to support the Annisquam River dredging project.  The City of Gloucester is honored to have received this substantial investment from the Commonwealth," said Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken. "Without this grant the project would have been postponed. Everyone recognized how important and necessary it was to return the river to safe navigable depths for commercial fisherman and search and rescue vessels as soon as possible. This project is a great example of local, state and federal governments working together. We are grateful for that collaboration. We look forward to work commencing and know that the economic development, public safety implications and project benefits will be profound."

"The New England District was able to award a contract for maintenance dredging of the Annisquam River this season with the collective efforts of the Commonwealth, the City of Gloucester and the Congressional delegations.  The US Army Corps of Engineers is fortunate to have such strong and collaborative relationships with our non-Federal sponsors and we look forward to restoring safe navigation for the Coast Guard and other users," said District Commander Colonel William M. Conde of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"The additional federal funding is wonderful news for the communities of Gloucester and the North Shore, where the Annisquam River has been unsafe and unnavigable, hurting the local economy,"said U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren. "I was glad to work with Senator Markey and Congressman Moulton to get the federal funding needed to help improve the safety and accessibility for boats, including lobster and commercial fishing vessels, and generate economic growth and prosperity for communities of the Commonwealth. I intend to keep fighting alongside my Massachusetts Delegation colleagues for more federal support for infrastructure projects like this across all of coastal Massachusetts."

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"Dredging the Annisquam River is a generation overdue. This project will ensure the channel is appropriately navigable, not only for economic development in Gloucester and along the North Shore, but also for the public safety of first responders and the tens of thousands of recreational boaters and commercial mariners who utilize the river each year. I am proud to have worked with federal, state and local officials to make sure this dredging project will begin this fall as planned," said U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey.

"To move mud in the Annisquam, we had to move mountains in D.C. and on Beacon Hill," said U.S. Representative Seth Moulton. "The funds announced today build upon the nearly $6 million my team and I worked years to secure, and their delivery is a testament to the hard work that Governor Baker, Mayor Theken, Senator Tarr and Representative Ferrante put in to get this project over the finish line. This is how government should work."

"Dredging the Annisquam River is critical for our economy, public safety and our quality of life, and for years we have been working to get it done. Now persistence, collaboration and thinking outside of the box have brought us to the point of starting a project that will restore vitality and utility to this most important waterway," said State Senator Bruce Tarr.

"The dredging of the Annisquam River is one of the most daunting challenges facing Cape Ann. Today, through the cooperative efforts of our federal, state and local leaders, Gloucester residents can rest easy knowing that the safety of the river and economic development of Cape Ann will be restored as work begins to dredge the river and make it navigable," said State Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante

"Having this river dredged will allow our 47-foot Heavy Weather Rescue Boats to transit the Annisquam River at all tides, instead of just the two hours on either side of high tide. The completion of this project will aid in our response coordination and storm mooring flexibility, and most importantly, it stands to greatly increase our response time to heavy weather search and rescue incidents on the north side of Cape Ann," said Commanding Officer John M. Roberts, U.S. Coast Guard Station Gloucester.

In addition to addressing public safety concerns, the Annisquam River Dredging Project will restore navigation for commercial and recreational users and provide ancillary benefits for Gloucester Harbor, a Designated Port Area (DPA) of the Commonwealth. Collectively, the Annisquam River and Gloucester Harbor support over 1,500 moorings and dockage slips, more than 250 commercial fishing and business vessels, and seven commercial marinas. More than $14.1 million in lobster and over $52.5 million in finfish were landed in Gloucester in 2017. The Annisquam River also supports one of the busiest state boat ramps in the Commonwealth, with parking available for over 100 vehicles.

In March, the Baker-Polito Administration announced its first standalone grant program offering $4 million in focused funding for saltwater dredging on a competitive, annual basis. Dredging assistance is vital to help coastal communities to maintain and improve their navigational waterways and support the long-term growth and sustainability of the state's maritime economy. Earlier this year, Massachusetts Dredging Program funds were awarded to Beverly, Chatham, Dennis, Hingham and Nantucket.

The Massachusetts Dredging Program is financed with funds allocated under the 2018 Economic Development Bill, which was signed by Governor Baker on August 9, 2018. The program builds on the success of the 2018 Navigational Dredging Pilot Program, which awarded $3.6 million to 10 projects, tapping into $3.9 million in local funding and in-kind costs. Dredging applications are evaluated by the program administrator, the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED), in consultation with the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs' Office of Coastal Zone Management.stats

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