BY DYKE HENDRICKSON
---- — SALISBURY — Federal funds totaling $10 million have been approved to rebuild the north jetty of the Merrimack River, U.S Rep. John F. Tierney, D-Salem, announced yesterday.
Work on the south jetty has been underway for several years and members of the Merrimack River Beach Alliance had been pressing to receive federal funds for the north jetty.
“I am pleased that this $10 million to rebuild the north jetty follows $6.5 million to fund work on the south jetty,” said Tierney in a statement. “This is great news for Salisbury residents, who have long been concerned about the deterioration of the river’s north jetty.”
Two years ago, $3.5 million in federal money went to Plum Island’s south jetty project, and the aforementioned $6.5 million in federal funds was awarded to complete it. That work is going on now.
The $10 million for the north jetty was derived from last year’s Disaster Relief Appropriation Act, which Tierney supported, according to spokesmen in Tierney’s office.
“Congressman Tierney has been a great supporter of our efforts with the jetties,” Salisbury Town Manager Neil Harrington said. “Those in the Army Corps have been helpful also.
“A stronger jetty will help us keep sand on our beaches and add to better navigation in the river,” he added.
Local officials say that the deteriorating north jetty is so low that tidal waters wash over the boulders and into the river.
Sand that the beaches needs migrates to the river, and its aggregation in the Merrimack adds to difficulties for vessels.
In recent months, leaders of the MRBA, including co-chairs Jerry Klima of Salisbury and state Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, have been pressing state and federal officials for money with which to begin work on the north jetty.
Many locals believe that winds and currents from the northeast have had a damaging effect on certain beaches in Salisbury and on Plum Island.
Some think that erosion problems, which have resulted in the loss of numerous beachfront homes, have increased because of the weakened condition of the south and north jetties.
MRBA leaders say that fortifying both jetties could act to limit erosion, which now is affecting Salisbury Beach and the south end of the inhabited part of Plum Island.
When fully functional, the jetties have been effective in warding off strong winds and waves, local officials say.
The south jetty is 2,445 feet long, and the north jetty stretches 4,118 feet, according to state officials.
Construction managers say the work on the south jetty should be finished by March 31, a date that coincides with the arrival of federally protected piping plovers.
Local officials did not have a date when work on the north jetty will start, in part because requests for proposals (RFP) have not yet been extended, said Dan Rubin, a spokesman for Tierney.