Army Corps of Engineers proposes Cape Cod Canal dredging

Corps working with Sandwich to decide if dredged materials will be used on Town Neck Beach
The US Army Corps of Engineers is proposing a dredging of the Cape Cod Canal to make the main water channel safer for deep draft vessels. Photo by Maggie Kulbokas.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) announced this week a dredging proposal for the Cape Cod Canal. If undertaken, the dredging project would take 3 to 4 months and would be scheduled for fall of 2015 and early spring of 2016, according to a USACE release. 

Dredging would be done to increase the safety of the canal for the vessels that use it, especially deep draft vessels. "Shoaling in the main ship channel consists of large wave formations," said Project Manager Michael Riccio, who works out of the USACE's New England District Engineering/Planning Division in Concord. "These formations cause draft restrictions, tidal delays and hazardous conditions for deep-draft commercial vessels transiting the Canal."

If dredging is not done, it is likely that some vessels may have to forego using the Canal and make the much more hazardous trip around the Cape. The Canal was built one hundred years ago to shorten the journey around the Cape by 135 miles and give mariners the option of avoiding the much more dangerous route around the Cape's tip. Shoaling in the East Mooring Basin limits the available space for vessel mooring during emergencies.

The Canal was last dredged five years ago in 2010, according to the Corps. At that time, 106,000 cubic yards of material was dredged from the main ship channel and the East Mooring Basin and deposited in Boston Harbor.

The dredging project would involve removing approximately 150,000 cubic yards of clean sand and gravel from six specific areas in the main ship channel and the East Mooring Basin, according to the release.

A Corps study will evaluate the possibility of transporting the dredged materials to Town Neck Beach in Sandwich, where it would be used as beach-fill on a 2,500 foot eroded section. According to the release, Sandwich is the non-federal sponsor for cost-sharing of the study and the placement of the fill at Town Neck Beach. Town Neck Beach is adjacent to the south breakwater at the eastern end of the Canal.

If during the study, the use of the dredged materials at Town Neck Beach is found to be beneficial to the government and the end of the study coincides with the dredging timeline, the fill will be deposited at the Sandwich beach at a cost of 65% to the government and 35% to the Town of Sandwich, according to the release.

According to the Corps, the Town of Sandwich has expressed interest in footing 100% of the bill to have the fill brought to Town Neck Beach if the study is found to not be beneficial. If the dredged material is not deposited at Town Neck Beach, it will be deposited at the Cape Cod Canal Disposal Site, a circular area, one-nautical-mile in diameter, three nautical miles northeast of the Cape Cod Canal Buoy #1, according to the public notice

The sand and gravel to be dredged has been tested and deemed acceptable for placement at either Town Neck Beach or the disposal site, according to the Corps.

The public notice from the proposal was posted on February 2. Comments and questions may be directed to Mr. Riccio at [email protected] or 978-318-8685. The comment period closes on March 3.

The USACE is coordinating the proposed dredging project with several federal, state, town and tribal organizations. A complete list is available in the public notice.

See a beach nourishment presentation from the Town of Sandwich here.


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