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BELFAST, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Officials from several state departments got an earful from people who live near, in and around Searsport on Tuesday concerning ongoing plans to dredge parts of the harbor. About 75 people attended the meeting at the University of Maine's Hutchinson Center in Belfast, representing all sides of the debate.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is looking to drop the depth of Searsport harbor from 35 feet to 40 feet in some spots. Supporters of the project said it's necessary to help larger ships sail into Mack Point with greater ease.

However, critics of the proposal include many environmental groups and fishermen who said they worry that dredging could unearth decades of industrial contaminants, including mercury.

Business advocates said all environmental factors have already been considered by the corps and in order for the port of Searsport to remain economically viable, the dredging must happen.

The Army Corps of Engineers is currently looking to get a permit for the project from Maine's Department of Environmental Protection.

If all necessary permissions are obtained, officials hope to begin dredging the harbor possibly in the fall of next year.

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