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Dredging to combat Plum Island, Salisbury Beach erosion

Posted on July 6, 2022

NEWBURYPORT — The city is hoping to give local boaters a little more room to maneuver at the south jetty, while also preparing for an Army Corps of Engineers project to rebuild Reservation Terrace.

Newburyport, Salisbury and Newbury are part of a $19 million federal project that will involve the Army Corps of Engineers dredging 220,000 to 300,000 cubic yards of sand from the Merrimack and Piscataqua rivers to be used to combat beach erosion on Plum Island and off the Salisbury coast.

The Salisbury portion of the project will have sand placed off the coast where the tide will naturally carry it to points nourishing Salisbury Beach.

Mayor Sean Reardon said Newburyport’s dredged sand will be used to rebuild Reservation Terrace on Plum Island beginning in September.

“This will put the sand right on Reservation Terrace and we are still on track for September,” he said.

The Army Corps of Engineers rebuilt the south jetty at the mouth of the Merrimack River in 2015 and pieces of Reservation Terrace have been disappearing ever since, the mayor said.

“It’s been over six years since that was done and the the old road at Reservation Terrace from 73rd to 77th Street is pretty much gone now. So this will replace the sand,” he said.

“Right now, you can walk all the way down the beach at low tide,” he added. “But, if the tide changes, you can’t get back. So, you are most likely walking through people’s yards because you can’t just walk through anymore.”

More than 400 feet of beachfront will be added to the Reservation Terrace area, according to Reardon, who said the city has secured $240,000 in a federal funding earmark to have the Army Corps of Engineers conduct a study of the south jetty to see what additional options might be available to cut own on coastal erosion on Plum Island.

“A lot of people think that, if they install a spur on the jetty, it could help with erosion,” he said.

The mayor also said the south jetty study is critical to keeping Plum Island viable.

“If something happens on one part of Plum Island, it affects another part of it. So there are no easy solutions,” he said. “We’re going to replace all of that sand and it is going to give the residents of Reservation Terrace a little bit of peace of mind. But, unless we do the next step, it is just going to happen again.”

A stone structure was placed off 73rd Street in October and it has done a good job of slowing coastal erosion in the area so far, Reardon added.

“There is some water reaching it during most high tides, so it is taking some of the energy from those waves, which is good. But we’re also about to go through another storm season, as well. So it is paramount that we get that dredge done in September,” he said.

The city has also entered into an intermunicipal agreement with Salisbury to dredge additional sand from just outside the 9-foot navigation channel located just west of the jetty to help boaters better navigate the shallow waters.

The two municipalities are expected to share the cost of the $78,000 project, which the City Council unanimously approved spending up to $50,000 on during its meeting June 27.

Chief of Staff Andrew Levine said the new dredging is an add-on to the Army Corps of Engineers’ project and is expected to receive funding from a pending state grant.

“This has also been designed as a cost-saving measure, since it is an attachment to the bid that will give both municipalities a bit more flexibility,” Reardon said.

Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Newburyport for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.


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