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Hampton Harbor dredging project moves forward

HAMPTON -- Language permitting the emergency dredging of Hampton Harbor was kept in the federal Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 finalized this week, the dredging considered necessary to keep the harbor in use.

The House and Senate reached an agreement on the bill Monday, the language for permitting the emergency dredging pushed by U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., as well as U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter earlier this year. Boat captains have said their ships are getting stuck in the harbor at low tide, and they fear putting off the dredging will make the harbor unusable in the near future.

The biennial Water Infrastructure Act authorizes water infrastructure projects around the country.

Shaheen, Hassan and Shea-Porter have called for the harbor’s dredging for the last few years as town officials from Hampton and Seabrook, which shares the harbor, pushed them to get funding for the dredging allocated for the Army Corps of Engineers. The harbor currently supports 25 party-fishing boats, numerous lobster and commercial fishing boats and approximately 1,500 recreational vessels.

Shoaling, officials say, has made water so shallow in parts that boats now struggle to go in and out. The harbor was last dredged in 2013, but Shaheen said in April a report from the Corps shows some areas of the harbor are less than a foot deep.

“Without emergency dredging of Hampton Harbor, access to open waters for New Hampshire fishermen and the safety of those using the harbor are at risk,” said Shaheen this week. “This is about keeping our harbors safe and protecting our Seacoast economy, and I won’t stop fighting until these projects are finished.”

Corps officials said in April that funding for the dredging could come in 2019.

Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, chief of engineers and commanding general of the Corps, said approximately $275,000 for designs for the harbor’s dredging could be secured this year, after which approximately $4 million for dredging could then be placed into the Corps’ 2019 work plan.