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Designated Port Area Bulletin - January 1999
Since September, the four major ports outside of Boston Harbor (Gloucester, Salem, New Bedford/Fairhaven, and Fall River) have made great strides with port planning and dredge planning, with the assistance and direction of Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management (CZM). An update is provided below.
Massachusetts' Four Port Planning Initiative
Fall River: Progress continues in Fall River, with the Harbor Planning Committee regularly meeting to review and discuss the work of The Cecil Group, the City's consultant. On December 22, 1998, a public meeting was held to present the conclusions of the Feasibility Assessment Report. A number of comments were made on the direction of the planning process to date, the majority of which were supportive. A draft proposed plan is likely to be submitted to CZM for informal review late this winter.
The three alternatives being considered by Fall River are Tourism and Economic Development, Mixed Use Development, and Marine Commerce and Industrial Development. All three alternatives include a significant expansion of tourist opportunities along the waterfront. According to the consultant, the proposed plan will likely be a combination of the best ideas from each of the alternatives.
Enhancing economic development in service, retail, and tourist-related areas is the overall direction being pursued for the harbor plan. Some of the specific ideas being discussed include: a hotel and meeting facility along the waterfront; expansion and reorganization of the tourism sector to achieve a critical mass of uses; changes in the Designated Port Area (DPA) status of the State Pier to allow for expanded tourism activities, such as a performance facility; increased recreational boating; depression of Route 79 in conjunction with expansion of office type development along the waterfront. The issue of removing the State Pier from the DPA continues to require additional discussion.
New Bedford/Fairhaven: Port planning is moving steadily ahead, thanks to the continued dedication of both communities and their Harbor Planning Committee, as well as the work of their consultant, Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. On October 12, 1998, a public meeting on the various port development alternatives, as well as some of the early elements of consensus from the Harbor Planning Committee, was held at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. Comments were positive and there was strong support for the Planning Committee's desire to protect and enhance the marine industrial base in the harbor, while making room for other tourist and supporting commercial uses, such as an aquarium. New Bedford and Fairhaven are shooting to submit a proposed harbor plan to CZM for review in the early spring.
The enhanced economic analysis started by FXM Associates last Fall has been completed. One of the most important pieces of information developed was that the fishing industry in New Bedford accounts for more than $650 million in sales in the area and more than 3,000 jobs. This information underscores the keystone importance of this industry to the present and future economies of the New Bedford/Fairhaven area.
Marine industrial activities being considered in the planning process include a marine industrial park, freight service to the Islands and other locations, and revitalization of niche cargo operations. Potential tourist and supporting commercial uses being considered are excursion boats, a hotel, recreational marina expansion, enhanced restaurant activity, and the much discussed aquarium project.
New Bedford has recently received grant funds from both the state and federal government for a "quick start" ferry operation on the State Pier. The current long-term plan for this ferry operation is in the northern portion of the harbor. The idea of moving the Route 6 bridge to open up the northern portion of the harbor is also being considered.
Salem: Salem's draft harbor plan was released in November 1998. With this major accomplishment complete, CZM continues to work with project coordinator (Fara Courtney) and harbor planning consultants (The Cecil Group) to develop the final harbor plan. The public had an opportunity to provide extensive comments on the draft plan at a workshop on December 2, 1998. Salem's Harbor Planning Committee is in the progress of integrating public comments and agency input into a final plan.
The draft plan recommended establishing a Salem harbor walk and a streetscape and signage system; developing a parking and circulation strategy, including land and water public transit links; developing a new Salem Wharf for a broad range of water dependent uses from cruise ships to lobster boats and water taxis; establishing a harbor fund; dredging; infrastructure improvements; expansion of dockage; emphasis on tourism that celebrates historic and cultural heritage; and developing neighborhood amenities. In coordination with CZM staff, Salem is currently working intensively to complete its final harbor plan. The plan is expected to be ready for city council approval in early February. Following acceptance by city leaders, the final plan will be submitted (through CZM) to the Secretary of the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs (EOEA) for approval.
CZM is also working with Salem on the second phase of the pre-development studies for the Port of Salem Expansion project, funded in October, 1997, by the Seaport Council. This project has enhanced the port planning process and includes an engineering, environmental, and geotechnical impact study for the proposed pier construction for this "New Salem Wharf." The contract for this project was extended to June 30, 1999.
Gloucester: Development of a final harbor plan continues with CZM and Gloucester working closely with the city's harbor plan project coordinator (Dale Brown), planning consultants (ICON Architecture), and the Gloucester Harbor Planning Committee. Following the completion of the feasibility assessment in September, the committee choose "preferred alternative" scenarios (including associated activities) that met the goals and criteria established by the city. This work formed the basis of the draft Harbor Plan, which was released on January 1, 1999. The draft plan focuses on rebuilding the harbor infrastructure; strengthening the working port through a harbor fund program; enhancing waterfront public use and access; celebrating Gloucester history and culture through a new maritime museum and a network of maritime related sites; development of a downtown hotel; enhanced wastewater pretreatment; and traffic improvements. A public workshop on the draft plan is scheduled for January 11. The committee will review public comments and agency input on January 14 to prepare for the final plan phase. Working in coordination with CZM, Gloucester is anticipating completing its final plan in early February for city council approval. Following acceptance by city leaders, the final plan will be submitted (through CZM) to the EOEA Secretary for approval.
Massachusetts' Dredge Material Management Initiative
The statewide Dredged Material Management Plan (DMMP) is focusing on Gloucester, Salem, New Bedford/Fairhaven, and Fall River to coordinate with the Four Ports Planning Initiative. Progress has been steady, with CZM working with the cities and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). Major accomplishments over the last few months include:
During the next steps, a draft list of screened disposal sites will be developed for review/discussion with the cities in February; subsequent meetings will be held with the federal agencies. Following these meetings a preferred alternative will be identified and a review draft of the Draft Environmental Impact Reports will be developed for review and discussion with the cities.
For More Information on the Port Planning Process and the DMMP, contact:
. CZM Main Office, 617-626-1200