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Larger dredger heads to Plum Island

The site where the Oyster Bay dredging barge had been moored for several months off Plum Island in Newburyport.

Posted on March 15, 2023

A new, larger dredger is expected to be pulling into the mouth of the Merrimack River at any time, with plans to finish the work its relatively diminutive predecessor could not.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been working on a $9 million, federal project to dredge 226,000 cubic yards of sand from the Newburyport and Salisbury sides of the Merrimack River with H&L Contracting of New York.

H&L Contracting brought in the 220-foot dredger Oyster Bay last fall and it completed the 9-foot dredge in Newburyport in November. But a combination of mechanical issues and winter weather prohibited the project from progressing any further.

The contractor also asked for an extension for the project, which was initially slated to end by March 31, and the Oyster Bay has left the area.

Mayor Sean Reardon said Wednesday that H&L Contracting is expected to bring in a subcontractor, Norfolk Dredging Company of Chesapeake, Virginia, with a roughly 400-foot dredger to finish the job.

“That’s almost double the size of the dredger that was here and it will be using a much bigger pipe. The subcontractor has already visited the city and checked out the site,” the mayor said.

Harbormaster Paul Hogg said the dredger is named The Delaware.

“This is a newer dredger that has only been used for two other projects,” he said.

The Delaware will also be using a 30-inch pipe, instead of the Oyster Bay’s 20-inch pipe, according to Hogg.

Reardon said a larger dredging pipe should also make for quicker work.

“Once they get started, there will be a lot fewer days they will need to finish the project,” he said. “I think we’re trending in the right direction. They’re looking to get going by the end of March but nothing’s 100% official just yet.”

The dredged sand is expected to be placed along the beach at Plum Island’s Reservation Terrace, where a vacant home was damaged over Christmas weekend and is in danger of being destroyed during another storm.

Reardon said Captain’s Fishing Parties and Cruises has offered to donate 10 truckloads of sand to the city to be placed along Reservation Terrace.

“Their part of the basin area has a large collection of sand they’ve got nothing to do with and they would love to donate it to the city,” he said.

Reardon added that he has been in discussions with the city’s Conservation Commission, the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, and state Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, to make sure the city can accept the excess sand.

“Once we have a meeting and work all of that out, we will decide when the best time is to utilize that sand,” he said.

Hogg said he hopes the sand can be approved.

“We always need sand and it’s great to have everyone working together and helping each other out on the island,” he said.


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