LYNN — The Lynn Harbor could become more boat-friendly with an estimated $8 million dredging project that would create a continuous channel allowing vessels to get in and out of the harbor.
City officials are working with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to conduct a $500,000 feasibility study to determine what it would take to dredge the harbor, including the cost and challenges associated with the potential project, which would create deepwater channel access of approximately 8 feet deep by 40 feet wide, according to James Marsh, director of community development.
“Part of our plans for the waterfront include the facilitation of the best and highest possible use of Lynn Harbor by providing vessels with a contiguous dredged channel in and out of the harbor,” Marsh said. “Currently, vessels come into and out of the harbor via a channel that runs the length of the Causeway and ends in a ‘J’ right after the Ferry Terminal.”
Essentially, when boats come in through the Nahant Causeway, they run into a dead end at the EDIC pier and have to turn around to go back into the channel that flows right into Nahant Beach, according to Mayor Thomas M. McGee.
Marsh said his and McGee’s office have been working with the Army Corp of Engineers to try to resolve that issue by creating a plan that would extend the channel to the Saugus River at Point of Pines. If deemed feasible, the plan would create a continuous loop into and out of the harbor to facilitate water-related activity in the Revere/Saugus/Lynn area.
Continuing the channel, Marsh said, would support the city’s existing marinas and save private and commercial vessels, such as the potential return of the commuter ferry, time and fuel costs. The project would create deep water access for future land-based developers in and around the South Harbor site and visitors who will use the planned boardwalk along the waterfront, he said.
The study, which city officials hope will get underway this summer and would be a 50/50 match between the city and federal government, is the second of a four-step process that has been in development for several years. An initial appraisal, completed in May 2013 with $100,000 funded by the federal government, allowed the city to move forward with the project by confirming there would be an economic benefit to dredging the harbor.
Marsh credited McGee and U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) for being critical to facilitating the study.
“We’re excited to work with the Army Corp of Engineers,” McGee said. “We’ve been working for a long time to get that feasibility study done and the opportunity to dredge the waterfront from the river really to the ferry location, about 5,000 feet of waterfront that will really open up our waterfront entrances on both sides. It would be a tremendous boost if we were able to go through the study and get the dollars to make it happen.”
McGee said he thinks the city has a “really good shot” at making the project happen, adding it was a big step to get the funding for the feasibility study.
It’s clear where the channel ends and the water becomes shallow, McGee said. The dredging would continue that channel, which is like a highway for vessels, deep enough that boats won’t bottom out and become grounded, according to Marsh.
“Currently, without the proposed dredging of the city waterfront channel, fishermen located in the Saugus River who wish to fuel or offload in Lynn Harbor must transit down the Saugus River channel, out to deep water, and then up the Lynn Harbor channel to the upper harbor area,” Marsh said, who added the entire round trip is about 3 miles.
Marsh said the harbormaster, U.S. Coast Guard, fishermen and vessel owners have reported the danger of groundings and potential damage to vessels because of shallow conditions adjacent to federal channels.
“If we’re able to get this there, you really have a chance of freely flowing in any spot out of the Saugus River into the Lynn Harbor right away,” McGee said. “You can come into Lynn Harbor from Boston or from the harbor islands into that side of the waterfront down where the South Harbor site is.”
If the study determines the project is feasible, design and construction, and then perpetual maintenance by the Army Corps would follow. Marsh said potential dredging and construction is still years away. He said it would be a mostly federal-funded project with local matches. Dredging was part of the city’s original Waterfront Master Plan, which is in the process of being updated, he said.