But suppose no intervention was made. How would Allen Harbor evolve if it were not dredged?
Predictions are that the harbor would continue to fill in with silt, stifling water quality and rapidly degrading environmental conditions. Boats would operate in unfavorable, silty conditions restricting access during full tide cycles. Commercial fishermen, who depend on safe passage in and out of the harbor, would not be able to enter the harbor to dock, and their livelihoods could be jeopardized. Vessel owners, no longer able to navigate the channel nor use the Town Boat Ramp, would need to dock elsewhere or in other towns if their boating time were dictated by limited deep water mobility.
The loss of a harbor has a trickle-down financial effect to other business and economic interests in the town as well, affecting retailers, restaurants, and lodging businesses.
Waterfront homeowners invest in premier real estate because of location and because of reliable deep-water access for boating. If not maintained, a channel and harbor can fill in and eliminate that access for boating. As a result, property values may be adversely affected by as much as 70% if the property goes from dock waterfront to swamp marsh.
Environmentally speaking, deferred maintenance of a harbor may have undesired consequences. Decades of settling sediment result in:
- Loss of shellfish and ground fish due to high turbidity levels and low oxygen
- Limited navigation that will cause large amounts of silt to be put back into the water
- Lack of flow resulting in increased flood issue
- Loss of bird feeding habitat
Eventually the harbor would revert to a marsh. A productive waterway for boaters and aquatic life would be lost.
Dredging is a proactive and environmentally responsible method of nurturing and protecting Cape Cod's waterways. The benefits of dredging include returning a waterway to a healthy ecological state; preserving an economic asset for the Town; and securing the boating public's safety. The cost to dredge can be quantified, budgeted for, and managed over the long term.
In contrast, the decision not to dredge carries a risk of harming aquatic fish and plant species, losing precious waterways, negatively impacting Town revenue, and completely altering our marine landscape - an environmental and financial price tag that is too expensive for Cape Cod.