BY DYKE HENDRICKSON
---- — NEWBURYPORT — Phase II of the rebuilding of the south jetty of the Merrimack River might be delayed due to a challenge to the choice of the low bidder.
The development came to light yesterday when members of the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers told the Merrimack River Beach Alliance that the application of the company that submitted the low bid has been challenged by the second lowest bidder.
Classic Site Solutions Inc. of Springfield was the lowest bidder at $3.5 million, said Edward O’Donnell, chief of the regional navigation section of the Corps of Engineers.
The second lowest bid of about $3.7 million came from CRC Company, Inc., of Quincy. The specific figure was not disclosed. CRC challenged the winner’s bid but Corps officials would not say on what grounds.
The repair of the south jetty, located at the northernmost tip of Plum Island, is considered to be an important project that is expected to reduce the amount of winter storm erosion along the island’s beachfront. Gaps at the jetty’s high tide mark are widely believed to cause currents that tear away at the island’s dunes during storms. The rebuilding project is filling in those gaps with massive boulders.
Federal funds to finish the jetty project have been approved, and local officials had hoped the work would start in coming weeks.
State Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, who co-chairs the MRBA, noted that all work must be finished by early April so that nesting plovers are not disturbed, a protection dictated by federal law.
Tarr urged members of the Corps to launch the appeal process as soon as possible so that project can begin.
“If the appeal is upheld, this project does not have to be re-bid,” Tarr said.
He stated CRC, the second lowest bidder, could be awarded the contract for the jetty work.
There has been uncertainty about whether the boulders brought in by contractors would be delivered over the dunes or from barges in the river, but O’Donnell indicated the bids call for an “overland” delivery.
The engineer said that his agency will move the appeals process as expeditiously as possible but offered no estimate of when the work might start.
Local and state officials are hoping to obtain federal funds to improve the north jetty as well, but federal officials doubt that such money will be available soon.
Still, Tarr said that the Alliance would draft a letter to appropriate federal funding authorities so that the north jetty can be considered for repair.