MILBRIDGE — The town was invited Thursday to join the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in a study of the feasibility of dredging or building a breakwater in Narraguagus Bay to create a safe haven for fishing vessels during stormy weather.
The study would take 18 months to complete and would cost an estimated $200,000. The town would be expected to provide half of the cost, according to Joseph A. Bocchino and Donald Birmingham, officials from the Waltham, Mass., office of the Army Corps.
The two officials met with Town Manager William H. Treworgy and harbor master Owen Beal. Bocchino requested an indication of the town’s wishes by May 15.
“Does the town look favorably on spending $100,000 (on the feasibility study)?” he asked.
Treworgy said he would include the proposed feasibility study on the agenda of a May 2 meeting of the selectmen.
Assuming a receptive attitude on the part of the town, the corps would require a formal commitment by June 15, Bocchino said.
During two earlier meetings with representatives of the Army Corps, fishermen said that easterly and southeasterly storms made it necessary for more than 40 local fishermen to move their vessels up the Narraguagus River to the town marina or to ground out the vessels in Stover Cove on the western shore of the bay.
On Thursday, Beal said that harbor ice in the winter made it dangerous to leave vessels at their moorings during a northeast storm. The alternative was a run of about 1 1/2 hours to sheltered moorings in Eastern Harbor or Corea, Beal said.
The Army Corps officials have discussed the possibility of dredging Stover Cove to create a better mooring area or building a breakwater near Smith Cove to accomplish a similar end.
Birmingham said that before the Army Corps could be authorized to begin a harbor-improvement project, certain questions would have to be addressed, such as:
Would a harbor project prevent damage to fishing boats?
Would fishermen transfer boats from other areas to Milbridge for winter fishing?
Would the improvements provide access to a new or extended fishery resource?
Treworgy and Beal received copies of cost estimates for the feasibility study. Among the elements of the study were the following:
A subsurface investigation, involving probes and borings in an underwater area to be considered for possible dredging.
A hydrographic survey, to determine the depths of the harbor to mean low water.
An environmental assessment, to determine what types of material would be encountered while dredging and whether the materials would be suitable for disposal.
The two officials said that the possible discovery of rock beneath the mud and clay at the bottom of the harbor would indicate the necessity of blasting, the cost of which would outweigh the benefits of the harbor-improvement project.
Bocchino also said that if an early phase of the study indicated that a harbor-improvement project would not be feasible, the study would be ended, and the town would not be responsible for spending the entire estimated local share of the study costs.