Norwalk Harbor Management Commission member Tony D'Andrea said "there are miles to go before we sleep," but a celebratory atmosphere filled room 231 at City Hall last Friday morning where Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia and members of the commission talked about Phase 3 of the dredging of Norwalk Harbor that will soon begin, following the approval of state funds last week.
The State Bond Commission approved $1.75 million for the project.
"There has yet to be a shovel to hit the water, but the plans are here," D'Andrea said. "The Army Corps (of Engineers) is ready to go. The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has said it is in compliance with everything it needs. Federal funding and state appropriations are in play. Thank you, Gov. Malloy, for having the vision to help Norwalk."
D'Andrea said that about 160,000 cubic yards of sediment will be removed from the harbor so it can be restored to the Federal Navigation Project Congressionally authorized depth of 12 feet, so that it can continue to be used for recreational and commercial purposes. The harbor's depth now ranges from six to 10 feet.
"We can't have vessels coming into the harbor that are going to drag the bottom. It's a safety issue," D'Andrea said. "And it will promote commerce. Bigger boats can come into the harbor and spend money at our restaurants and use our beautiful facilities. It's a good thing for everyone."
D'Andrea said that the sediment is created by the seven watershed towns above Norwalk.
"Particulate coming into the water from storms goes into suspension into the water," he said. "When it gets to Norwalk, it settles. We have occasionally removed that sediment, otherwise boats can't come through the harbor. That's it in a nutshell."
He said the commission has been working on this project for the past 18 years. This effort represents the third of three phases of work to complete a full dredging of Norwalk Harbor. Phase 1 was completed in 2005 and Phase 2 was completed in 2009. Work on Phase 3 is expected to begin this October.
D'Andrea gave kudos to Moccia for his support.
"Whenever we came to him, he would say, `Do what's best for Norwalk. Do what's best for the harbor.' That transcended all politics," D'Andrea said.
D'Andrea also said the Common Council deserves thanks.
"They empowered the commission," he said. "They voted that Norwalk should have a harbor management plan to do things like this."
Moccia recognized former mayors Frank Esposito and Alex Knopp for their dedicated and tireless efforts and recalled how his involvment in the planning for the dredging project went all the way back to his first month in office.
"Norwalk's Harbor is very unique as we all know," Moccia said. "Many harbors are just recreational. Some are primarily commercial. Norwalk Harbor is in the unique situation of being about work and play.
"We come to the harbor for recreation, but also for the shellfish industry. We have barges toting materials out. And if they weren't using the harbor, we would have more trucks on the road. We know we have enough trucks on the road."
D'Andrea said workers will be transporting the sediment by barge to the central Long Island Sound dump site off New Haven and that the process should conclude in February. The project will create 106 jobs.
"This is an opportunity to ensure that, here in Fairfield County, we are an economic engine for the state," said state Rep. Bruce Morris, D-Norwalk. "And for the size of our city, this is the right kind of investment to ensure that we become an economically viable center here in Fairfield County.
"Thank you for your perseverance. In these tough economic times, we have to decide very judiciously where to spend dollars, and these are dollars well invested."