The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District has signed the Record of Decision in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act pertaining to the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Providence River and Harbor Maintenance Dredging Project in Providence, R.I.
"The Record of Decision states the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers intention to dredge the Federal channel, the methods and locations of the Federal dredging, and the methods and locations of dredged material disposal," said District Engineer Col. Brian Osterndorf, of the New England District. "This plan provides the best solution for meeting the immediate maintenance needs of the harbor while providing prudent safeguards for the environment."
The approved plan is substantially the Preferred Alternative identified by the New England District in the Final Environmental Impact Statement, according to Project Manager Ed O'Donnell, New England District, Programs and Project Management Division. The approved plan consists of the following.
"We intend to dredge the navigation channel to 40-feet deep and 600-feet wide to restore the full congressionally authorized project dimensions," O'Donnell said. "We will not dredge the segment at the upstream end of the project and the section along the East Providence shoreline near Watchemoket Cove as identified in the FEIS."
Maintenance dredging will be performed using an enclosed clamshell bucket dredge and no overflow of the scow will be allowed while it is being filled.
"We will sequence the dredging to minimize impacts to fishery resources by following the priorities developed by the interagency workgroup involved in the windows/sequencing deliberations as much as possible," O'Donnell said.
The Corps will dredge the silt, sand and gravel material from the Confined Aquatic Disposal (CAD) cells using an open bucket and allow overflow of the scow while sand and gravel are being removed from the CAD cells.
"We will dispose of material from the Fox Point Reach of the channel classified as unsuitable for open water disposal in the in-channel CAD cells," O'Donnell said. "We will allow non-Federal marinas and port facilities with material classified as unsuitable for open water disposal to dispose of their material in the CAD cells by paying the cost of creating this capacity, including material bulking, through the State of Rhode Island. About 20 private marine facilities have requested permits to dredge at the same time as the Federal project."
The Corps will dispose of silt material, classified as suitable for open water disposal, and the material excavated to create the CAD cells, at Site 69b in Rhode Island Sound. During construction the Corps will temporarily store the unsuitable material from the surface of the starter CAD cell in a scow. Once the CAD cell has been excavated to the required depth, the unsuitable material will be placed into the cell.
The Corps will use sand and gravel excavated to create the CAD cells for one or more of the following: place fine sand from the CAD cells over the maintenance silt at Site 69b in Rhode Island Sound to create the exposed surface layer at the disposal site; or use as much of the remaining material as practicable as fill for road or other construction projects.
"We will use material from the Upper Fuller Rock Reach, classified as suitable for open water disposal, to cap the unsuitable material in the CAD cells with one to three feet of material," O'Donnell said.
The Corps will dispose of the material from the Lower Fox Point Reach south through the Rumstick Neck Reach, with the exception of the material used to cap the CAD cells, at Site 69b in Rhode Island Sound. This material is classified as suitable for open water disposal without management.
The Corps will allow marina facilities located outside of the upper Providence River to dispose of dredged material that has undergone the necessary testing requirements and is determined suitable for ocean disposal without management at Site 69b.
The Corps will dispose of the material from the Lower Fox Point/Upper Fuller Rock Reaches not used for capping of the CAD cells at Site 69b.
"We will limit disposal quantifies of this material to 3,000 cubic yards per event to ensure that the discharge does not exceed marine water quality criteria," O'Donnell said.
The Corps will modify the ocean disposal operations by delaying disposal for one-half hour after a sighting whenever the vessel crew or inspector detect protected or endangered species within approximately 1,000 feet of the disposal buoy.
"The Corps participated in a thorough public involvement process throughout the seven-year EIS period, holding public meetings and public hearings to ensure that all pertinent issues and concerns were identified for the study and that the public had ample opportunity to participate," O'Donnell said. "We worked closely with the State of Rhode Island's Coastal Resources Advisory Committee during the EIS process. All pertinent issues and concerns that were raised during the EIS process and at the public meetings were fully reviewed and analyzed and are addressed in the FEIS and/or Record of Decision."
Additional information, including a copy of the Record of Decision, can be obtained from Ed O'Donnell by writing to him at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District, Programs and Project Management Division, 696 Virginia Road, Concord, MA 01742-2751. A copy of the Record of Decision can also be viewed online at www.nae.usace.army.mil. Click on "Projects" and follow the links to the Providence River Project.