Early Morning Barge Unloading Approved By Select Board

Toscana Corp. was granted permission to unload its barge at Steamboat Wharf between 4:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. up to four times over the next month.

Toscana’s request for a waiver from the town’s noise bylaw was approved over the objections of some neighbors of its facility at Arrowhead Drive.

The Toscana barge offloads construction materials – as much as one thousand tons of cargo – at the end of Steamboat Wharf several times per month. But the company has run into an issue with the depth of the harbor in that area at low tide.

“It’s a big safety concern for us,” Toscana’s operations coordinator Shane Corry. “We’re having an issue getting to the dock with the barge at low tide.”

Steamship Authority general manager Bob Davis said the ferry line is seeking an emergency permit to dredge the area again (the company had paid to do it last year as well) but with time required for permitting and putting the project out to bid, that work won’t begin for months.

The original request would have allowed Toscana to offload its barge anytime between 10:30 p.m. and 7:30 a.m. two times per week, but that was scaled back by the Select Board based on concerns submitted by neighbors both in writing and during Wednesday’s meeting.

“Granting this request would just be like the cherry on top of the past year’s disturbances caused by Toscana and it would negatively impact my family’s quality of life,” said Joshua Sibley-Liddle, whose family’s property on Hinsdale Road backs up to Toscana’s facility where material from the barge would be brought back to.

“These are times when we won’t sleep,” said Betsy Sibley. “I don’t know how you can have that on your conscience. I’m sorry, but I’m very upset.”

The Select Board also asked why Toscana could not make all of their barge deliveries happen during the daytime high tide.

“When we’re busy getting three barges here per week, with the turnaround time it takes to come from New Bedford and back, because it’s 50 miles away and sometimes we do less than 5 knots, scheduling and offloading in the afternoon doesn’t afford the crew the time to get back to New Bedford, get fueled up, get ready, get loaded the following day and get back,” Corry said. “It would limit the amount of business we could do in a week.” 

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