, Newburyport, MA

Local News

December 29, 2012

Operation sandbag

Officials act quick to protect threatened beachside

Town officials and emergency crews yesterday began shoring up vulnerable portions of Plum Island as dozens of large sandbag-like units were created in an attempt to halt erosion and stem damaging tides.

Before nightfall, workers had laid approximately one-third — or 100 linear feet — of the industrial-type sandbags and were expected to return to the beach this morning to continue working.

The focus yesterday was primarily in front of 37 and 35 Annapolis Way, two of the houses most severely undermined during Thursday’s nor’easter.

Homeowners in the erosion-affected areas will pay a total of $120,000 to $140,000 for the bulky “sand envelopes,” said state Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, who heads the Merrimack River Beach Alliance.

About a dozen homeowners from Annapolis Way and south along the beach will contribute to this fund, town officials said.

The town of Newbury will pitch in $10,000 for engineering costs to supervise this project and to improve anti-erosion measures, Tarr said.

The emergency measure was authorized in advance of another winter storm expected to hit today.

Tarr said the severity of Thursday’s nor’easter took residents and officials by surprise.

“Now we are moving as fast and effectively as we can to prepare for other tides that might be coming,” he said.

On Thursday, a gusty rainstorm combined with a surging high tide combined to destabilize sand surrounding several houses on Annapolis Way, which is south of the “center” where the Jeanne Geiger building stands.

At least four houses — at 29, 31, 35 and 37 Annapolis Way — sustained significant damage to their decks and stairways; three have been declared off-limits to owners because of concerns about stability. Damaged sections of the structures were removed yesterday as public-safety measures.

But Sam Joslin, building inspector for the town of Newbury, indicated that the structures are not currently in danger of collapsing onto the beach.

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