Federal funding secured for dredging of Westport's Saugatuck River

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A Metro-North train crosses the Saugatuck River bridge, in Westport, Conn., Jan. 2, 2014.

A Metro-North train crosses the Saugatuck River bridge, in Westport, Conn., Jan. 2, 2014.

Ned Gerard / Ned Gerard

WESTPORT — U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., on Wednesday secured $2.81 million in federal funding for the dredging of the Connecticut River, which will likely include the Saugatuck River in Westport.

The dredging was one of multiple Connecticut project that will be funded through the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 2022. Other projects funded through the bill will include $288,000 for a co-generation system at the Tower Foundation in New Haven, and $200,000 for the Hartford-East Hartford Levee Feasibility Study on repairs.

The bill still needs to be passed on the Senate floor and signed into law.

In a news release, Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe applauded the funding.

“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,” he said.

Marpe also said his office has been in contact with the Army Corps of Engineers, as well as federal and state delegates, and the town is “committed to expediting the necessary permits and approvals once funding is approved.”

According to town officials, the Saugatuck River, which bisects the heart of Westport, has not been dredged since 1969. In the interim, continued shoaling “has caused large portions of the river to be impassable at low tide and navigationally challenging at higher tides,” according to the release from the town.

The Army Corps is preparing to conduct an environmental assessment of the proposed dredged material disposal site, the Sherwood Island Burrow Site, slated to start in September. Once the assessment 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.

“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,” Marpe said in his statement. “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 insure dredging of the Saugatuck River.”