Nauset Estuary dredging project moving forward


The Town of Orleans recently hosted the second of two meetings on the proposed Nauset Estuary Dredging Project, giving residents the opportunity to learn more about the potential dredging.

The town’s Select Board was joined by stakeholders as well as Eastham officials, as the project impacts both Cape towns.

The proposal calls for the dredging of the channel from Town Cove to behind the barrier beach and stopping behind the Nauset Inlet.  The inlet itself would not be dredged. 

Two spur channels would also be dredged, one stretching from the main channel down to Priscilla Road Landing and the other to the entrance of Mill Pond. 

The channels would be about 100 feet wide behind barrier beach, and 50 feet wide everywhere else.

About 155,560 total cubic yards of material would be dredged and removed either offsite by truck or cast aside. 

The project is expected to cost $3.1 million, pending revisions brought on during permitting. 

Though the project does not have a set beginning and end date, officials said that the dredging would take place over several years, with maintenance dredging likely needing to be carried out every 8 to fifteen years.

Some potential dredging behind the barrier beach may be necessary on an annual basis.

“The goals of the project are to improve navigability in Nauset Estuary and improve public safety,” said Coastal Geologist and Marine Environmental Analyst for the Woods Hole Group Leslie Fields during the meeting.

“When we interview people from the fire department in Eastham and the Fire Department in Orleans they did voice their concerns over public safety in the estuary. So that’s what’s driving the goals. Improving navigation and public safety for commercial fishermen in the estuary as well for recreational boaters.”

The project requires at least eight permits total, including local, state and federal permits and notices of intent. 

Fields said that a Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act review would be required for the project, and would also allow opportunity for public comment. 

She also said that the review is only one step of the process.

“We’ve still got a whole host of other permits to get, so it doesn’t mean that once we’re through the MEPA process we can start working,” said Fields. 

The Select Bboard clarified that no money has been appropriated yet for the project that is still in its design phase, instead the current focus is on permitting and informational outreach.