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Hampton Harbor dredging effort takes a step forward

HAMPTON -- Plans for the dredging of Hampton Harbor will be funded this year by the Army Corps of Engineers, giving advocates for the project hope the actual dredging could take place in 2019.

The corps’ 2018 fiscal year work plan includes $275,000 to produce the plans for the project, which harbor business owners say is needed to keep the harbor from becoming unusable.

U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, both New Hampshire Democrats, praised the corps Monday for including the funding in their work plan. The plans are the last step before the actual work begins, and funding for the project may now be placed in the corps’ 2019 work plan, according to Shaheen’s office.

“The vitality of our coastal communities and Seacoast economy depend on (the harbor) to be operational, safe and efficient,” said Shaheen in a statement Monday. “I’m encouraged to see that this issue continues to be a priority of the Corps and will keep pushing until emergency dredging of the harbor is completed.”

The Hampton Harbor was last dredged in 2013, but officials say significant shoaling requires more dredging. Harbor business owners and fishermen have said shoaling has caused sand to pile high enough to prevent boats from exiting and entering the harbor at low tides. Those who run trips for tourists on vessels like fishing party boats and whale watches said their boats were stuck in the mud during some low tides, trapping them at the dock and frustrating customers.

The plans will include creation of documents key to the work and determining where the material removed from the bottom of the harbor during the dredge will be taken, according to Shaheen’s office.

When Congress allocates funding for corps construction projects, the corps has the discretion in where to spend it, according to Shaheen’s office, and whether the dredging takes place in 2019 will depend on the corps placing funding for the project in its work plan that fiscal year. Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, chief of engineers and commanding general of the corps, said earlier this year that approximately $4 million will be needed to perform the dredging.