MARSHFIELD — Marshfield's Green Harbor received $2.7 million in federal money for dredging that officials say is desperately needed, both in the inner harbor, and in the channel.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Spokesman Bryan Purtell said in a press release that the Fiscal Year 2022 budget earmarked the money for Green Harbor. He did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Marshfield Harbormaster Mike DiMeo said the 100-foot wide channel is now just 30 percent of what it is supposed to be at low tide.
"It's tough," he said. "If you get a negative tide, you could probably walk across the channel."
DiMeo said he's gotten lucky the past few years, as there have been only minor nor'easters. A major one would have brought a dearth of silt to the harbor.
The money the Army Corps received will pay for the yearly dredging of the channel and outer harbor as well as dredging the inner harbor, which hasn't been done since 2010.
Inner harbor dredging is usually required every 10 years as silt builds up slower there than in the channel, he said.
DiMeo said it is likely that the dredging will begin in the fall for the channel and next year, in the winter, for the inner harbor. The dredging window for the inner harbor opens in October, but it also depends if they can find a dump site to accept the silt.
Some of the dredged sand could be put back onto South Shore beaches, if the sand is the right size.
"We're in dire need of dredging," DiMeo said. "We're beyond our normal schedule. Some boats are aground at lower tides."
DiMeo said the harbor is a big economic driver in the region, as it exports lobster, tuna and other seafood across the country and the world.
"It's vital to have dredging done on the appropriate cycle," he said.
The next hurdle for the Army Corps is to get enough funding for a hydrological survey of the harbor. The Army Corps took over the jetties and the harbor from the state in 1969. Since the 1960s, the jetties have been misaligned, which causes the increased silt accumulation. Were they aligned, the channel would not need to be dredged every year.
"A typical dredge cycle is every 10 to 15 years," he said. "We would love to free up money for other ports."
The Army Corps needs to complete the study before they can ask congress for money to rebuild the jetties, both realigning them and making them more resilient in the face of rising sea levels and increased flooding risks.
DiMeo said the state's federal delegation, as well as local legislative leaders, deserve credit for pushing for the funding.
Sen. Patrick O'Connor, R-Weymouth, said he wrote a letter to the federal delegation asking them to make sure money in the federal budget went to the harbor's needs.
"With low tide, and how much sand was down there, something had to be done and I'm glad we prioritized it, and we'll continue to work with federal and state leders for a long-term solution," he said.