Following the conclusion of CHC’s consultation with stakeholders on the planned design optimisation and changes to the next phases of the Cowes Outer Harbour Project (OHP), the Harbour Advisory Committee has confirmed its support for the completion of the optimised scheme as proposed by CHC.
No definitive and final decision has been made as yet by CHC, although the Commission is progressing applications to the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) for consent variations to the approved scheme, reviewing costs for the design changes, and continuing to work with the Homes and Communities Agency to take forward negotiations with the developers of the planned new Victoria Marina in East Cowes to secure the funding for the next stages of the project. This will then enable CHC to make a definitive decision on the proposed Outer Harbour Project changes and, over the next few months, a decision on the timing for delivery of the next phases.
The planned changes to the next stages of the harbour infrastructure programme are designed to mitigate cross-harbour flows, minimise sedimentation, improve navigation, and ensure sheltered dayboat mooring provision. In brief, it is proposed that the extension to the Shrape Breakwater be moved south by 30 metres and aligned east-west; the width of the Eastern Channel will be increased from 30 to 40 metres and the alignment amended. There will also be some additional dredging improvements to the harbour to eliminate fairway high spots, dredge the area of recently widened fairway, and increase the depth of the annual day class moorings area to the south of the Cowes Breakwater.
As part of the MMO consents, Marina Projects Ltd has been tasked with commissioning a new eelgrass survey and initial indications are that the eelgrass beds have receded slightly away from the area of the proposed route of the dredged Eastern Channel. It is hoped that this development will ease the application to widen the Eastern Channel in the area between the Cowes Breakwater and Shrape extension.
As a reminder for harbour users, the Small Craft Channel was introduced in 2012 to reduce traffic in the busy northern part of the fairway, and prevent damage to yachts moored in the main harbour. The channel enables smaller vessels to avoid the main harbour entrance when approaching or departing Cowes from/to the north and east.
Due to the existence of eelgrass beds on the Shrape area, the Small Craft Channel has never been a dredged channel; as a rule of thumb if your draught is deeper than the depth shown on the tide gauge you should avoid using it. See Cowes Local Notice to Mariners No 45 of 2016 for full information. The proposed replacement dredged Eastern Channel will provide a deeper and wider access channel to the harbour, enabling more vessels to use it and thereby further reducing traffic in the main fairway and improving the safety of navigation.