September 11. 2018 10:33PM

Residents call for dredging of Rye Harbor

By KIMBERLEY HAAS
Union Leader Correspondent


Those who work on the water say Rye Harbor is in desperate need of dredging and is encouraging action by the selectboard as well as state and federal officials. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

KIMBERLEY HAAS/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT Don Blouin speaks at the Rye select board meeting Monday night about dredging in Rye Harbor. 

RYE — There was a packed house at town hall Monday night as residents and business people turned out to support the dredging of Rye Harbor.

The harbor was last dredged in 1990 and those who work on the water say it is in critical condition. Low tides make it difficult for boats to move in and out of the harbor due to the amount of silt that has settled in the area.

Peter Reynolds, owner of Granite State Whale Watch, said his boats carry 16,000 passengers annually but if the dredging isn’t done soon, the business will have to start canceling tours.

“The water level on the harbor is the biggest operational challenge for us right now,” Reynolds said. “The navigable channel has shrunk more than halfway so we can barely get the boats through there at low tide.”

Reynolds said the harbor has become so challenging to navigate that it’s difficult to dock their boats.

Capt. Mike Anderson said shoaling has gotten so bad that it is affecting business for fishermen as well.

“If I get in too late, the fish truck isn’t going to be there,” Anderson said. “So we have a critical time we can catch fish.”

Don Blouin has been heavily involved in gathering information about dredging the harbor and said it creates $5 million in revenue each year.

Blouin made his presentation before the board of selectmen as well as representatives from the offices of U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan.

In the package Blouin prepared, he included correspondence with Project Manager Michael Walsh from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Walsh said in the most recent survey of the harbor it was determined that 41,600 cubic yards of sediment needs to be removed.

On Sept. 4, Walsh said the Corps is working on a draft Environmental Assessment which will lead to coordination with federal and state environmental resource agencies.

Walsh said no money has been appropriated for the project at this point.

Selectwoman Priscilla Jenness said Rye Harbor was hand-dug in 1792 and has been maintained over the years but needs attention now.

“It has been dredged. But you can’t win against Mother Nature. It needs to be dredged again,” Jenness said.

Federal officials plan to dredge Hampton Harbor and Portsmouth Harbor as soon as next year.