Replacement of Charles River dock awaits federal funding


by Jeremy C. Fox, Watertown TAB

Ever since the dock in Watertown Square washed away in March’s heavy rains, townsfolk have been waiting and wondering when it might be replaced.

The dock had been a popular recreation spot, used for fishing and sunbathing, as well as the annual peace vigil commemorating the atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In the dock’s place now, a set of stairs leads directly into the river. Some still try to use the spot for recreation, but on a recent afternoon a hail of acorns from an overhanging tree made relaxing there next to impossible.

The entire dock disappeared down the swollen Charles River in mid-March, finally coming to rest at the Newton Yacht Club. The remains had to be broken into pieces and removed by a crane, according to Christopher Hayward, Watertown’s conservation agent.

Hayward said he doubts any part of the dock is salvageable and expects it will be necessary to build an entirely new dock, from the pilings on up.

“It would appear to me that they’ll probably have to start from square one with some of those pilings,” he said. “The tops of them are pretty jagged.”

The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) has filed a request with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for disaster relief funding to replace the dock and is awaiting a decision.

The project could be eligible for federal funds because President Barack Obama declared a major disaster for Massachusetts due to this spring’s heavy rain and flooding.

The federal government has set aside $6.4 million to help reimburse local and state governments and certain nonprofit organizations with infrastructure repairs, but FEMA only pays for 75 percent of the work. Local governments must pay the other 25 percent.

Hayward said the town is still waiting to hear from FEMA, but he often hears questions from citizens concerned about the popular site.

“People have come up and asked me, as the conservation agent, ‘Hey, I hope you’re not holding this up,’” he said. “But it has nothing to do with us.”

DCR spokesperson Wendy Fox said that FEMA representatives recently visited the site and are considering the request.

“It’s sort of in their hands at this point,” she said.

A FEMA representative did not immediately return a call for comment.


Comments are closed.