, Newburyport, MA

November 10, 2012

Disaster aid considered for Plum Island

Newburyport Daily News

---- — NEWBURY — State and city officials who make up the Merrimack River Beach Alliance yesterday resolved to take measures so local leaders can apply for disaster money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the future.

State Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, who chairs the committee, noted that emergency funds are often available if communities have monitored their seashores and can show proof of damage.

Though many of the seaside precautions regarding Hurricane Sandy involved Newbury’s Annapolis Way, Tarr said that residents in Newburyport and Salisbury should also be aware of the potential of future aid.

“Newburyport and Salisbury, as well as Newbury, should look into FEMA regulations and see if there is federal help available,” said Tarr, who with about two dozen others met yesterday to discuss post-storm conditions on Plum Island.

“But an eventual claim must be well-documented, so monitoring should start now. If there is damage in the future, we must be able to show what it looked like before, and what it looks like after.”

Members reported no major damage from the storm, and the federal government has not earmarked funds. But parts of the beach in Newburyport have been threatened by erosion in recent months, they said.

Sand piled by city workers to permit a pathway to the shore at the end of 55th Street, for instance, has disappeared and the walkway down to the beach is no longer operative.

Newburyport Planning Director Andy Port said that the walkways can be restructured next spring.

Erosion appears to be permitting the surf to inch closer to a house owned by Dr. Sadruddin and Clare Hemani at the end of 55th Street. Dunes have washed away, and wooden stakes have been driven into the sand in front of the residence to stabilize the beach.

MRBA members stated that beach-scraping in Newbury prior to the storm appears protected at least eight houses from the churning surf. But erosion is enabling the surf to push close to Jeanne’s, adjacent to the parking lot at the center.

Or, in erosion parlance, “the groin is porous” and is permitting surf to close in on the onetime restaurant.

Several members noted that the success in holding back the ocean was in part due the fact that private property owners are equipped for the task and are paying for the scraping.

A resident of Annapolis Way, Bob Connors, is a construction executive. In addition to being the driving force behind the beach-scraping initiative, he provided machinery to get project done.

Several MRBA members suggested that protocols to react to potential storms be created that will help residents who don’t have access to heavy machinery.

In other business, a representative of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reported that construction teams have started preparations for improvement of the south jetty at the mouth of the Merrimack River.

The Corps’ Ed O’Donnell, an engineering specialist for the $3.6 million project, said that a construction team has started to create a pathway which trucks will use to carry boulders from the lot to the jetty.

They will travel from the parking lot at the north tip of Plum Island, over to the south jetty several hundreds yards away.

The material being used is heavy lengths of lumber, and the “corduroy” thoroughfare will be removed when the project is done. The fortification project is scheduled to continue until March 31.