Connecticut Senators Murphy and Blumenthal announced that $2.8 million in funding for the dredging of the Saugatuck River has been secured in the Fiscal Year 2022 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill. While Westport is in a strong position to receive these funds, the Bill needs to be passed on the Senate floor and then signed into law.
First Selectman Jim Marpe commented, “Dredging the Saugatuck River is an essential project that will improve the navigation, commerce, aquatic life and habitats in Westport’s Central Business District and waterfront. My office has been in ongoing communications with the Army Corps of Engineers, as well as Federal and State delegates on this important initiative. We are committed to expediting the necessary permits and approvals once funding is approved. I extend my sincere thanks to Senators Murphy and Blumenthal for listening to my office’s requests and taking the necessary steps to secure funding. I also want to acknowledge the support of Congressman Jim Himes in identifying the Saugatuck River dredging project as one of his top 10 infrastructure investment appropriations. With this funding, it is hoped that the Army Corps of Engineers prioritizes resources to ensure dredging of the Saugatuck River.”
History & Justification
The Saugatuck River bisects the core of Westport and runs along the Central Business District, residences, and recreational facilities. The river was a shipping route from the 19th to the mid-20th Century. It has not been dredged in approximately 50 years (1969). Since that time, continued shoaling has been occurring and has caused large portions of the river to be impassable at low tide and navigationally challenging at higher tides. Today, vessels can no longer travel from the Long Island Sound or from the marinas at the southern end of the Saugatuck River to Westport’s Central Business District because of the minimal water depths caused by shoaling. Further, aquatic life and animal habitats in and around the river are being adversely impacted by urban storm water runoff.
The Saugatuck River is a significant community asset. A successful dredging project has the potential to provide increased commerce and access to Westport’s coastal facilities. It is expected to play a major role in the revitalization and enhancement of Westport’s downtown and river-fronting activities, including supporting maritime traffic and recreational boating.
The Army Corps is preparing to conduct an Environmental Assessment (EA) of the proposed dredged material disposal site, the Sherwood Island Burrow Site, to commence this September. Once the EA is completed, the Corps will present the disposal site to the Long Island Sound Dredging Authority. If approved, the dredging of the river would be authorized provided funding is available.