FAIRFIELD — Grants from the Connecticut Port Authority will be used to dredge the town boat yard and improve the launch ramp at Ye Yacht Yard, as well as update the town’s Harbor Management Plan.
The $272,500 in Small Harbor Improvement Projects program grants was announced at a news conference Wednesday with Southport Harbor as the backdrop.
“It’s really exciting to see some of these SHIPP grants become a reality,” said Evan Matthews, executive director of the authority.
Of the funding, $266,000 will be used to dredge the boat yard, known as Ye Yacht Yard, and improve the boat launch ramp, with the town putting up $11,000 in match funds. Another $6,500 will go toward the update of the Harbor Management Plan. The town will contribute an equal amount for the management plan.
James Harman, chairman of the Harbor Management Commission, said all of the projects, including the plan update, should be completed by the end of this year. He noted the original management plan was adopted in 1995, while plans for dredging and improvements at the boat yard had been discussed for 15 years.
The dredging is needed, Harman said, because at low tide, the area around the boat yard is “basically a mud flat.” It will be dredged to a depth of 3 to 6 feet, and the Public Works Department will regrade and extend the launch ramp.
First Selectman Mike Tetreau said that 200 years ago, Southport Harbor was one of the main harbors on the Eastern Seaboard. Now, he said, it is a recreational boating center, with both state and national historic designations. Tetreau recalled touring the harbor two years ago with members of the Port Authority.
“We talked then about the formation of the Port Authority, and our concern it would only worry about the larger harbors,” Tetreau said. He said the authority has been true to its word that it would develop programs for all of the state’s harbors.
“Our goal here today is to make sure 200 years from now our residents are still enjoying the harbor,” Tetreau said.
Scott Bates, chairman of the authority, said Tetreau was one of the first local leaders to reach out to the agency.
“The water is a economic engine for communities up and down the shoreline,” Bates said, and he said the authority is partnering with local communities to unlock that economic potential. “This is a state-wide enterprise,” with grants going to 17 communities up and down the shoreline.
The grants are given based on merit, according to Evan Matthews, executive director of the Connecticut Port Authority, with maritime economic development as a key thread.