Sewer District seeking additional federal funds for seawall construction

Thu, 02/08/2024 - 7:15am

The sea level isn’t the only thing rising. Costs associated with building a seawall have also risen. In 2017, the Boothbay Harbor Sewer District began planning to build a seawall protecting their treatment plant at an estimated $4 million cost. With the engineering studies completed, district officials are now recalculating their construction figures due to soaring inflation. The new figure is now $8.6 million leaving district officials scrambling for more money. The BHSD is seeking Congressionally Directed Funding also known as a federal “earmark” to fill the gap.

The Lincoln County Region Planning Commission assisted with drafting a letter to Maine’s two U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King seeking additional funding, On Feb. 6, Executive Director Emily Rabbe presented the letter to county commissioners seeking their support. On Feb. 6, Lincoln County Commissioners voted unanimously to send a letter supporting the Boothbay Harbor project.

Rabbe told commissioners recent storms have emphasized the importance for a sewer treatment plant seawall. “The sump pump couldn’t keep up with the flooding and they placed sandbags in the main building which housed equipment and materials. They were simply overwhelmed,” she said.

In 2017, the Boothbay Harbor Sewer District received a $4.015 million Maine Infrastructure Adaptation Fund grant for engineering and construction costs. With project costs now more than double, district officials sought additional funding. In the letter, Rabbe outlined the BHSD’s efforts in securing previous seawall funding. The seawall project was recommended as a “hazard mitigation” project in a 2017 coastal resiliency study commissioned by the district. Trustees voted in 2021 to fund preliminary engineering and environmental permitting. Project bidding is scheduled for this summer and construction this fall. Project completion is scheduled for winter 2026. 

In January, Phase 1 began with work on the northern and western portions of the treatment plant’s wall along with electrical upgrades at the southern perimeter. Project costs now total $8.6 million. The letter asks Maine’s two senators for their assistance in the congressional earmark. “During the Jan. 10 flooding, the BHSD experienced alarming levels of flooding at the wastewater treatment facility. Floodwaters reached the process building’s overhead door and subsequently flowed into the garage floor drains,” commissioners wrote. “The water overwhelmed the sump pumps leading to flooding. For context, the lower level, which hosts their most critical equipment, floodwater reached high-enough levels to cause catastrophic and lasting damage. We (commissioners) strongly support and urge Congressional Directed Spending for this project proposed for this critical wastewater facility.” 

The proposed seawall is designed to protect against future flooding from sea level rise, storm surge and wave-run up.