June 06, 2020

Ellsworth piling work under way in Union River

ELLSWORTH – There’s a new marine contractor in the city harbor.

Prock Marine of Rockland arrived in the Union River earlier this week with a barge and a crane to make improvements to the city’s waterfront facilities.

Prock, however, will not do any dredging in the harbor, according to city officials.

The city has not hired a replacement for former dredging contractor Northeast Marine Towing and Construction, and a federal seasonal dredging ban does not allow dredging in salmon spawning grounds such as the Union River between April 15 and Nov. 1.

City Council Chairman Larry King said Thursday that the city had hoped to get an extension from the state to dredge after April 15 and to negotiate with Prock for the company to pick up the dredging project where Northeast Marine left off. The city, however, was unable to get the extension.

Prock is replacing pilings next to the city’s boat ramp and installing new concrete floats at the adjacent city pier, according to City Manager Stephen Gunty. He said Thursday that the floats have yet to be fabricated and that the work is scheduled to be finished by the end of July.

According to City Clerk Martha Bayer, Prock will be paid $108,864 for the work.

King said the city hopes to get permission from the state to resume dredging before Nov. 1.

No dredging has been done in the city’s harbor since last May.

The city dropped Northeast Marine in February, citing the company’s failure to perform the work in a timely fashion, “persistent disregard” of the authority of the engineer hired by the city to oversee the project, failure to provide information to the city, and failure to provide sufficient equipment and manpower to carry out the work during the winter, city officials have said.

Northeast Marine representatives have said ice conditions in the river this past winter made it unsafe to dredge in the harbor.

The city also has demanded that Northeast Marine return $100,000 that city officials allege was overpaid to the Penobscot contractor. The dredging firm was hired by Ellsworth for the $500,000 project in 2001. City and federal officials have estimated that the project is 25 percent complete.

King said that since Northeast Marine’s contract was terminated, city officials have held mediation talks with the company but that those talks have not led to a resolution of the dispute.

“Inactivity is not acceptable,” King said of Northeast Marine’s contractual obligation.

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