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Plum Island dredging project may resume soon

Posted on January 11, 2023

The dredging of Merrimack River sand on the Salisbury side of the river should begin once again soon after a Christmas week storm knocked the project off track.

Once completed, the beach along Reservation Terrace area will have received at least 226,000 cubic yards of sand dredged from the Salisbury and Newburyport sides of the river.

The $9 million federal project is under the supervision of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has most recently been working with New York-based H&L Contracting to dredge a 15-foot-deep channel on the Salisbury side of the river after successfully completing a 9-foot-deep dredge on the Newburyport side last fall.

Acting Fire Chief Stephen Bradbury said at the time that the nasty Christmas weekend storm washed up a roughly 16-inch diameter pipe near 73rd to 67th streets and spilled a “significant amount” of dredged sand near the mouth of the Merrimack.

A vacant home at 15 73rd St. received heavy damage during the storm and propane tanks were discovered floating near 73rd, 71st, 69th and 65th streets.

Mayor Sean Reardon said last week that the dredge pipe that washed up remained intact, after all.

“They secured the pipe before the storm. Actually, the night before the storm, we had something like two high tides in a row. One affected the pipe and they had to come back the next day and secure it more. When that high tide came in, the storm came in the next day,” he said.

Reardon said the city has been working with the Army Corps of Engineers and state Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, to see that H&L Contracting is back up and running as soon as possible.

Tarr’s legislative and communications director, Don Siriani, confirmed Friday that the errant pipe has been secured and is anchored in place. Siriani added that the state senator will meet with the Army Corps of Engineers manager on Monday to discuss the dredging restart date.

“It is supposed to be in mid-January. But we want to know if that is the second or third week of the month,” he said. “So we want to get that narrowed down.”

The mayor also said the Department of Public Services worked with Reservation Terrace area residents to remove as much of the displaced sand as possible but added, “Unfortunately, all the emergency measures we took at this time last year just aren’t going to do the job that they did last year.”

“We have this big, massive stone structure that was taking the energy of those waves and now they’ve filled in with sand. The rocks are just peeking out of the sand right now, so it’s a straight shot,” he said.

The Army Corps of Engineers contract runs through March, and Siriani said Tarr is also looking to get a better handle on the completion date.

Reardon admitted that Reservation Terrace is “a vulnerable little spot” at the moment and, the sooner the sand is placed on the beach, the better.

“We’ve just got to get it going,” he said.


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