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Corps of Engineers proposes improvements to Portsmouth Harbor turning basin at head of Federal navigation channel

Published March 31, 2014
Aerial view of Portsmouth Harbor. Portsmouth Harbor is located on the Piscataqua River, which makes up a portion of the Maine-New Hampshire border. Portsmouth Harbor stretches across the communities of Kittery and Eliot, Maine, and Portsmouth, Newington, and New Castle, New Hampshire.

Aerial view of Portsmouth Harbor. Portsmouth Harbor is located on the Piscataqua River, which makes up a portion of the Maine-New Hampshire border. Portsmouth Harbor stretches across the communities of Kittery and Eliot, Maine, and Portsmouth, Newington, and New Castle, New Hampshire.

CONCORD, Mass. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District, in partnership with the New Hampshire Pease Development Authority, Division of Ports and Harbors (New Hampshire Port Authority), has prepared a Draft Feasibility Report and Draft Environmental Assessment (FR/EA) to examine improvements to the turning basin located at the head of the Federal navigation channel in Portsmouth Harbor in Newington, New Hampshire, and Eliot, Maine.

The purpose of the proposed project is to reduce transportation costs from navigation inefficiencies, and to address navigation safety concerns for commercial navigation in the upper reaches of the deep draft channel.  The Piscataqua River is known for its strong tidal currents and tight turns that make navigation through this area difficult.

“Vessels use the upper turning basin to access the commercial terminals on the New Hampshire side of the river above the I-95 Bridge,” said Study Manager Mark Habel, of the Corps’ New England District, Engineering and Planning Division, in Concord, Mass. “The existing width of the upper turning basin is too narrow for efficient and safe turning and maneuvering of these large vessels.”

As a result of the narrow turning basin, ships have been damaged from grounding and incur delays in channel transit. To compensate for the narrow turning basin, the harbor pilots will only turn ships when currents are slower during the high or low slack tidal periods and during daylight hours.

These conditions put a severe constraint on the available time to transit the river and to unload goods. Additional costs associated with these delays include the cost to remain at the berth until the tide is right, and the cost of additional tugs to turn and maneuver the ships up and down the river. Cargo vessel sizes are limited by these conditions requiring extra ships to transport the same amount of goods.

The Recommended Plan would widen the existing 35-foot deep MLLW 800-foot wide turning basin located at the upstream end of the Federal navigation channel to 1,200 feet. The existing project depth of 35 feet MLLW plus two feet of allowable overdepth would be retained. Approximately 728,100 cubic yards of coarse grained sandy and gravelly material, and approximately 25,300 cubic yards of rock would be removed.

The Draft Feasibility Report and Draft Environmental Assessment (FR/EA) are available for review on the Corps website at: http://www.nae.usace.army.mil/Missions/ProjectsTopics/NewHampshire/PortsmouthHarbor.aspx.

Concurrent with the improvement dredging, some maintenance dredging would be required to bring the current turning basin and its approaches to its authorized depth of 35 feet. Approximately 7,800 cubic yards

of material, including two feet of allowable overdepth, would be removed for maintenance dredging. Dredging would take approximately six months to complete and be accomplished during the period from mid-October to mid-April to protect biological resources.

The Isle of Shoals – North (IOS-N) ocean placement site was selected as the Federal base plan for dredged material placement. Several local communities in Massachusetts and Maine have expressed an interest in the nearshore placement of the dredged material and rock for beneficial uses. All additional permits and costs above the base plan would be borne by the local communities. Locally proposed beneficial use plans would be finalized during the project’s design phase.

The proposed work is being coordinated with: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; National Marine Fisheries Service; U.S. Coast Guard; U.S. Navy; Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry, Coastal Zone Management Program; Maine Department of Environmental Protection; Maine Division of Marine Resources; Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife; Maine State Historic Preservation Office; New Hampshire Pease Development Authority; New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services; New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game; New Hampshire Natural Heritage Bureau; New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development, Division of Parks and Recreation;  New Hampshire Division of Historic Resources; Massachusetts Historical Commission; Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation; Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program; Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries; and Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management.

The public notice for this proposed work, with more detailed information, is available for review on the Corps website at: http://www.nae.usace.army.mil/Missions/PublicNotices.aspx.

Public comments on this proposed work should be forwarded no later than April 30, 2014 to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District, ATTN: Engineering and Planning Division (Mr. Mark Habel), 696 Virginia Road, Concord, MA 01742-2751 or by email to cenae-ep@usace.army.mil.


Contact
Tim Dugan
978-318-8264
cenae-pa@usace.army.mil

Release no. 2014-033