Dredging of Milford’s Osgood Pond should begin soon

MILFORD – Dredging a small part of the weed-choked Osgood Pond is scheduled to begin soon, and selectmen say they are looking for government grants that would allow the town to dredge more.

Plans call for Steve Trombly Excavating of Milford to dig up between one and two acres of the shallow 20-acre pond, which could make the area near Adams Field usable for some canoeing, fishing and ice skating.

The project has been planned, and then delayed, over the years as costs skyrocketed. The limited dredging scheduled to begin this fall will be paid for with $60,000 from a capital reserve fund started 17 years ago.

David Wheeler, of Milford, who is trying to regain his Executive Council seat, told selectmen Monday night about various state and federal grant opportunities.

The board does not want to delay the project, however, to wait for a major grant possibility mentioned by Wheeler, from the federal Land Water and Conservation Fund, a 50/50 matching grant of up to $150,000, because it would not be awarded until next spring.

“We all agree we would like to do something more,” said board Chairman Gary Daniels Tuesday morning, and the board will seek grants in hopes of using them to dredge more of the pond without burdening taxpayers.

The state dredging permit from the Wetlands Bureau is for five years, with the possibility of a five-year extension.

Selectmen noted that there are no guarantees the grant would even be awarded to the town, but Wheeler pushed the board to apply for the federal money.

“This is an opportunity to finish what we started,” he said, saying Osgood is a valuable resource and he remembers catching bass there as a child.

“If you dig a little hole it’s going to fill in again,” he said.

Fred Elkind, the town’s environmental program’s coordinator, has said that with one or two acres dredged, the part of the pond near Adam’s Field would be 6 or 8 feet deep, and with the valve closed, the area near Adams Field could have a depth of 8 to 10 feet, he said.

Last year the pond’s dam valve was opened to allow water to drain out in anticipation of the dredging, so the vegetation will not be as saturated and easier to remove.

Draining the pond has caused vegetation to die and rot, though, making the situation worse for people who live around the pond, and this summer they asked selectmen to at least dam the pond again.

The dredging project has been off again and on again since the late 1970s and early 1980s, when selectmen and the Conservation Commission decided that it was a major priority. Then in 1983, the commission decided that since there is no money available, the project should be dropped.

In recent years the costs, as proposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, climbed to $3 million for clearing 15 acres, and town officials said it was unaffordable.

Wheeler complained in a phone interview Tuesday that selectmen should have taken a formal vote on the dredging contract, because the town has a policy that contracts of more than $25,000 must be voted on by the board.

“I’m kind of upset about that,” he said.

Daniels said the selectmen’s vote in August, to go forwarded with the dredging, was considered a vote on Trombly’s contract.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at kcleveland@cabinet.com or 673-3100, ext. 304.