WESTERLY — The consultant hired by the town to prepare specifications and permit applications for the planned dredging of a portion of Winnapaug Pond assured the Town Council Monday that the material to be taken from the pond will meet state regulations and will be suitable for placement on town beaches as a replenishment effort.
Questions had been raised recently about whether the dredge material would be appropriate for the beaches.
Jesse Baldwin, a project manager and coastal geologist with GZA GeoEnvironmental Inc., said his company designed the project, including selection of the area to be dredged, by taking samples from the bottom of the pond. Material deposited on the Town Beach and Wuskeneau Beach will comply with state regulations that prohibit material composed of more than 10 percent fines [silt and clay] being placed on beaches.
“We went out and took sediment samples throughout the dredge template and we designed the dredging project based on the areas where we found sandy materials,” Baldwin said during the council’s meeting Monday night.
Once the project begins, Baldwin said, representatives of his firm will be on site to monitor the material being dredged. If overly silty material begins to be removed, he said the dredging will be paused and equipment moved.
The composition of dredge material is regulated by both the state Coastal Resources Management Council and the state Department of Environmental Management, Baldwin said.
Councilor William Aiello said he was concerned about the project’s effect on Atlantic Avenue. Baldwin said his company designed the project in collaboration with Public Works Director Paul Corina and Peter Chiaradio, assistant director of Public Works, and assured Aiello that the road would be returned to its pre-project condition once the dredging and beach replenishment is completed.
The project faces a daunting deadline as state regulations prohibit dredging past Jan. 31. Baldwin said he had received correspondence from CRMC on Monday indicating the agency appears to be preparing to accept public comment on the project, a sign Baldwin said suggests CRMC’s approval of the project to date. Baldwin and Director of Development Services Lisa Pellegrini are scheduled to meet Wednesday with officials from CRMC, DEM, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to discuss the project.
The conservation service has approved a $2.78 million grant to pay for the bulk of the project. The town will contribute up to $475,000 to satisfy a grant requirement. The grant funds are part of a Superstorm Sandy recovery effort initiated by the federal government.
Also Monday, the council voted unanimously to award a $971,462 contract for the dredging work to J.F. Brennan Co. of Braintree, Mass. The company’s bid was the lowest of four submitted.
John Ornberg, a life-long resident of the town and close observer of the coast, had raised questions about the suitability of the dredged material for use on the beaches. He based his questions on project documents on the town website. On Monday, Ornberg said GZA and Pellegrini had provided “some new engineering data” that indicated the dredging material will conform to state standards for beach use and that the project should be completed well before July 1.