CRMC Dredging of Waterplace Park in Providence River
Clean Fill to be Placed at South Quay in EP Waterfront
The RI Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) posted a statement regarding its dredging of Waterplace Park in downtown Providence. "This is in order to restore the full function of the Water Fire events, and to remove years of road silt and sand from the river basin bottom," said CRMC. The CRMC Council approved the maintenance dredge permit at its October 8 meeting. The biggest cause of the buildup in the river is from salt and sanding runoff through the years.
As the state’s dredging coordinator, the CRMC will be working with project manager The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Rhode Island, as well as the City of Providence, R.I. Department of Transportation, 195 Commission, and Providence Foundation to remove approximately 22,000 cubic yards of material from bank to bank from the Amtrak bridge under the Providence Place Mall to the Crawford Street Bridge piers. The material will be beneficially reused at a redevelopment site in the city and possibly to cap a landfill in Pawtucket, and the silty material will either be beneficially reused by TNC for marsh creation and elevation in the Seekonk River, or trucked to a Providence Redevelopment lot at 70 Houghton Street.
The CRMC started the dredging in November and the two dredges will be running 24 hours a day, seven days a week until February 15, 2020. “Waterplace Park has been filling in steadily over the years from sand and silt washing into the basin from the surrounding roads,” said CRMC Executive Director Grover Fugate. “This project is a long time coming, and will improve the Water Fire experience and public’s use of the park for years to come,” continued CRMC.
Funding for this project comes from the Green Economy and Clean Water Bond, of which the State of Rhode Island secured $7 million. The project requires the use of two specialty dredges mounted on two low-profile barges. These barges will have pontoons on either side of the metal deck, with a hinged housing that can be swung onto its side for passing under low bridges.
Dan Goulet of the RI Coastal Resources Management Council discussed the project in an October public hearing. " The scope of the project extends from the Amtrak bridge under the Providence Place mall to the Crawford Street Bridge piers. This is a maintenance dredging project, removing 4-5 feet of sediment, which is mostly road sand that washed into the river over the past 25 years," said Goulet.
The project began around November 15, 2019 and will run 24-7, barring mechanical breakdowns. "We estimate 25-28 days of actual dredging. Our goal is to complete the project by the end of the year," said Goulet.
Some East Providence residents, including the Save the Bay organization have raised concerns with the project. The concerns are mainly with the depositing of dredged material on the South Quay property on the East Providence waterfront. Save the Bay is mostly concerned with future dredging of an area to the new pedestrian bridge which may require a different re-location source. The South Quay site is former railroad property now owned by RI Waterfront Enterprises LLC, the producers of Live Nation Concerts. "Dredge pipe will be anchored to the bottom of the upper bay, ensuring it doesn’t interfere with shipping traffic. At the Quay, the sand will be separated from water and stored there. A separate permitting process will determine whether the material can be used at the Quay or trucked offsite (to Providence)," said Goulet last October.
CRMC said that the dredge will be "equipped with specialized adaptations to work under and around the downtown bridges. The contractor has experience working near people. The river will be open for navigation during the project and the areas of park space that are currently open will remain open.
The project will cost about $5 million, paid for by the Clean Water and Green Economy bond.
"Unfortunately, the shape of the project area, especially Waterplace Park, is inherently good at
trapping sediment," said Goulet. "Likely it will require additional dredging in 15-18 years, possibly sooner in high priority areas."
Most officials and observers close to this project believe that there are enough agencies involved to ensure a safe and beneficial effort without harm to East Providence. CRMC, DEM, Save the Bay, Army Corps of Engineers and The Nature Conservancy have all been involved. It seems evident that the deposit of clean fill is not an environmental problem. CRMC has reported that dredged material was previously "tested by the Army Corps of Engineers and isn’t hazardous. It also meets state standards for use at commercial and industrial sites," said CRMC. RIDEM testing will also occur at the South Quay property to determine that it meets pollution limits.