WESTPORT — Nearly $3 million could be in the pipeline to dredge the local stretch of the Saugatuck River, according to town and federal officials.
In a joint announcement, U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal said that $2.8 million for the dredging project has been included in the federal Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill for the 2022 fiscal year. The legislation still needs full Senate approval before it can be signed into law.
The Saugatuck River, coursing through town along the downtown business district and past historic properties and recreation facilities, has not been dredged since 1969, town officials said Tuesday.
Since then, shoaling has caused large sections of the river to become impassable at low tide and challenging for navigation at higher tides. As a result, boats are now unable to travel from Long Island Sound or marinas at the southern end of the river to the downtown area, local officials said.
Dredging would help to promote commerce and provide access to town coastal facilities, according to the town statement, while supporting revitalization initiatives downtown.
“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,” First Selectman Jim Marpe said in Tuesday’s statement.
“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,” he said, adding his thanks to Murphy, Blumenthal and U.S. Rep. Jim Himes for supporting the project.
In September, the Army Corps is expected to conduct an environmental assessment of the proposed site for disposing materials dredged from the river — the Sherwood Island “burrow site.” Once completed, the corps will refer the site for review by the Long Island Sound Dredging Authority. If that body approves, the dredging project would be authorized, as long as funds are available.