They’re going to build boats at the old Revere Copper. To do it, son-and-father team Michael and Charlie Quinn need the harbor dredged in front of the iconic former metalworks.
Four feet of water is far from enough.
Their company, Shoreline Resources, is one of dozens in New Bedford and Fairhaven poised to benefit from a massive, nearly harbor-wide dredging plan, set to take place over the next two years.
The dredging will remove sediment along public and private wharves on both sides of New Bedford Harbor, deepen channels to improve access to marinas, and create areas newly usable for mooring fields.
Edward Anthes-Washburn, New Bedford port director, said the hulls of fishing vessels are getting deeper, requiring more draft.
“Allowing … the entire port to react to that and be able to dredge down, it really sets us up for decades of success,” he said.
The city and state are cooperating on a dredging plan whose main goal is economic development. But because the dredging will also remove contaminated sediment, the city was able to get the work permitted through the federal Superfund process already underway.
“It’s like a win-win,” said Timothy Cox, Fairhaven harbormaster.
Right now, shallow waters mean it’s not unusual for Cox’s staff to aid vessels that have run aground in areas north of Pope’s Island.
“A lot of the boats at Slocum Cove at moon tides can’t leave the marina or get to the marina,” he said.
Washburn said the commitment to dredge has already spurred investment, including the recent purchase of the old Fairhaven Hardware by Fairhaven Shipyard.
As many sites in Fairhaven are scheduled for dredging as in New Bedford, including 14 residential properties, according to Cox.
Fifteen Fairhaven businesses have agreed to participate as well, according to Paul Foley, the town’s director of planning and economic development.
Washburn said that as part of the State Enhanced Remedy, which is work done in coordination with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cleanup of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the harbor, the state is funding 80% of the navigational dredging in front of commercial properties.
The overall cost is about $100 a yard.
The 80% represents the portion of the cost attributed to the fact that sediment is contaminated and needs to be buried in a confined aquatic disposal cell, or CAD cell.
Businesses will pay 20% — which is roughly the equivalent of what they would have paid for dredging if the harbor were clean, Washburn said.
Residential owners will not get the subsidy, but because the work is tacked onto a larger project, they will pay about one-sixth of what they would have otherwise paid, he said.
Foley said a cleaner harbor will improve public perception of the harbor, and deeper water could allow for 100 or more additional moorings.
At State Pier on the New Bedford side, dredging will help support the shipping of clementines and other produce. And a variety of businesses, such as Crystal Ice, will be able to provide services to larger vessels, Washburn said.
The dredging is expected to go down five feet, and most of the contamination is in the first three feet. The material going into the CAD cell is less contaminated than the area around it, according to Washburn.
The navigational dredging project will have its own CAD cell, south and east of an existing CAD cell created by the EPA. It will be capped with three feet of clean material.
Building the cell should take nine months to a year, and the dredging should take another year, Washburn said.
He said the waterfront is “incredibly vibrant,” diverse, and job-rich.
“We only have about 600 acres, and there are 6,800 jobs that are located in the New Bedford and Fairhaven waterfronts. So we’re doing pretty good in terms of the marine industrial activities that’s happening,” he said.
The harbor is growing as a fishing port at a time when many fishing ports are disappearing, in large part because of the diversity of what New Bedford Harbor offers, he said.
As new uses emerge, such as offshore wind, the port wants to create infrastructure to support them while continuing to grow as a fishing port and supporting the fishing industry, he said.
In all, 40 different sites will be dredged for navigation as part of the project.
Maps of the work will be on view at a public meeting Aug. 13 at 2 p.m. at Fairhaven Town Hall. The project is also scheduled for discussion the following week at the Fairhaven selectmen’s meeting, Washburn said.