Posted on September 18, 2023
The city recently received an unexpected windfall of more than $80,000 after learning that a dredging project related to the massive Plum Island beach replenishment project was done free of charge.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers oversaw a $9 million project last winter and spring that dredged 260,000 cubic yards of sand from the Newburyport and Salisbury sides of the Merrimack River.
The dredged sand was then deposited and sculpted into a new beach at Plum Island’s Reservation Terrace, where a vacant 73rd Street home was damaged by a storm in late December.
New York-based H& L Contracting started the dredge last winter but brought in Virginia-based subcontractor Norfolk Dredging to complete the project in the spring.
Newburyport and Salisbury had also entered into an intermunicipal agreement to dredge additional sand from just outside the 9-foot navigational channel just west of the jetty.
Harbormaster Paul Hogg said the city earmarked $104,900 to pay for the side dredge, which was designed to take advantage of the larger project and help boaters better navigate the shallow waters at the mouth of the Merrimack River.
Total design, engineering and permitting for the side dredge ended up costing $41,671. Of that figure, $20,835 was paid for by Salisbury.
But Norfolk Dredging did not charge the two municipalities for the side dredge project after all, leaving an $84,064 surplus after design costs, which Hogg said is now available to spend.
Hogg added that he intends to add $11,319 from the city’s side of that amount to a state Clean Vessel Act grant of $18,750 to replace the shoreside boat waste pump at Cashman Park.
Hogg added the change of dredging companies from H& L Contracting to Norfolk Dredging ended up saving the city a lot of money.
“We’ve got a pump over at Cashman Park that needs to be replaced,” he said. “I’ve already got a grant and I’d like to use some of the remaining money from the side dredge for that. That way, we’ll have another service to offer boaters.”
Finance Director Ethan Manning said diverting those funds will serve the entire boating community.
“Newburyport is the only participating community of its neighbors in the Clean Vessel Act program. So Salisbury boaters will also receive a benefit by being able to come over and empty out their boats,” he said. “That’s also a zero cost to the boater, through this program. So it’s really a win-win for everyone.”
The transfer/appropriation request came before the City Council Monday night and was unanimously sent to the Budget and Finance subcommittee which will next meet at City Hall on Thursday, Sept. 14 at 6 p.m.
Hogg said he hopes to get the new pump, up and running by the end of September or first week of October.
“We do our part in getting rid of all the waste, that’s for sure,” he said. “I can’t control what comes down the river but we do our part.”
An extremely rainy 2023 boating season has already prompted many boaters to take their vessels out of the river, according to Hogg who said a new waste pump will make things easier on them.
“Everybody likes to pump out their boats at the end of the season,” he said. “I’ve been duct-taping that pump in place, all season long, just to get through. I’d like to get that new pump in place so we can have a nice, brand-new station for the boaters.”