By Joe Cohen
Standard-Times Staff Writer
The port of New Bedford was awarded $5.5 million in its largest harbor dredging grant ever by the state today, along with funds to put into service the first fireboat in modern port history.
State and city officials pointed to the funds for dredging, the fireboat restoration and raising a sunken vessel as proof of their commitment to continual upgrading and improvement of New Bedford Harbor for the commercial fishing fleet, other commercial uses and recreational boaters.
A total of $5.715 million will be available, it was announced following a meeting of the Massachusetts Governor’s Seaport Advisory Council in Gloucester. The funds include:
— $5.5 million for New Bedford and Fairhaven dredging.
— $100,000 for Fairhaven Union Wharf engineering design for rehabilitation.
— $75,000 for restoration of the New Bedford fireboat.
— $40,000 to raise a sunken vessel off the Gifford Street boat ramp that is impeding navigation.
The funds for New Bedford Harbor comprised the vast majority of port development project dollars voted on at the Seaport Advisory Council’s spring meeting, which dealt with a total of $8.25 million in projects planned for the next few years.
Among other projects was $1.1 million for floats and docks at the Fall River State Pier.
Woods Hole and Provincetown also received a total of $70,000 to be used for raising sunken vessels.
State Sen. Mark C.W. Montigny, D-New Bedford, chairman of the Senate Bonding Committee, said the state funds help “maintain the lifeblood of our local economy” and will help expand the commercial capacity of the waterfront. He said the port of New Bedford is the economic engine for the city and “gateway to our city’s economy.”
Sen. Montigny said funding for the bond bill is an outgrowth of public officials working with commercial interests to see that the best interests of the harbor are properly considered. “We have had a string of good news stories — it is the result of hard work. We are leveraging private investment.”
The goal is to maximize mixed commercial use of the harbor, including making it a tourist destination, but “not at the expense of the commercial waterfront,” he said.
New Bedford Mayor Scott W. Lang praised the administration of Gov. Deval Patrick and Lt. Gov. Tim Murray and the legislative delegation for making the funds available.
The $5.5 million will be used for dredging at different places in the harbor, including entrance and exit ways. It is the third phase of a multi-stage dredging project; the second dealt with the primary navigational channels.
Mayor Lang said the funds are critical “to sustaining New Bedford’s ranking as the number one fishing port” based on value of catch landed.
At the meeting in Gloucester, Mayor Lang told the council that New Bedford has tremendous capacity to grow its commercial activity, saying, “We are at 10 percent capacity of import/export freight.” He also cited the operations of the Steamship Authority, Cuttyhunk and the New England Fast Ferry Co., which operate ferries to the islands and have spurred economic activity by drawing more than 130,000 passengers a year.
Mayor Lang also highlighted the funds for the fireboat.
“The addition of a first-class fireboat to the port significantly enhances our ability to prevent and mitigate fire threats and better equips our first responders in life-threatening situations.”
He cited the theoretical example of firefighters trying to deal with a blaze on a boat at the outer side of four or five boats rafted together.
The fireboat was given to New Bedford by Boston’s Fire Department as surplus property. It needs general maintenance before it can be used. It will be manned by the New Bedford Fire Department.
Before the Seaport Council meeting, officials including Mayor Lang and Port of New Bedford Director Kristin Decas were guests of Gloucester Mayor Carolyn Kirk, who told Mayor Lang she could use assistance in following the Whaling City’s progress on port activities.
Mayor Lang responded that he would be glad to assist, saying the two fishing ports are somewhat related in that, “We are the big cities on the water in the best locations in the state. There are no trade secrets — we’ll share.”
Information from Richard Gaines of The Gloucester Times was used in this report.
Contact Joe Cohen at firstname.lastname@example.org
April 01, 2008
By Joe Cohen