BY DYKE HENDRICKSON
---- — NEWBURY- Town, city and state officials organized to advocate for Plum Island yesterday declared they would seek $100,000 to $150,000 from federal sources so they can begin planning for the fortification of the north jetty of the Merrimack River.
Members of the Merrimack River Beach Alliance say they are intent on improving the second jetty at the mouth of the river, in an effort to continue fighting beach erosion in Newbury and Newburyport.
"We can get this started by writing our two senators, and Congressman Tierney," said State Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, who is co-chair of the MRBA. "If we can get funding for design, it will be a start on securing federal money in the future."
The MRBA is composed of town, city, state and federal leaders with an interest in the oceanfront and the Merrimack River.
Close to three dozen officials and residents generally attend the sessions, which in recent months have centered on developing solutions to battle erosion on the island.
Representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers yesterday said that the $3.6 million project to fortify the south jetty of the river "is making good progress and so far, so good."
Army engineers say that the stone they are trucking in and placing on the jetty will extend east about 700 feet. They will be adding 6 to 8 feet in height; this accumulation of stone will equal the height it attained when last re-engineered in the late '60s.
Army spokesmen noted that the deadline of March 31 and construction teams will "be right up against the window" to finish on time.
But Army officials, noting that work must stop on that date in deference to the presence of the piping plovers, said they are looking at scenarios should the construction teams need more time to finish the work and clean up the area.
Doug Packer, conservation agent for the town of Newbury, reported that the sandbagging of beach in front of homes at vulnerable Annapolis Way has progressed without incident.
He stated that two layers of sandbags have been put in place and a third layer will be finalized when warmer weather permits workers to return to the beaches.
Most alliance members say that sandbagging is a temporary solution, and the organization is attempting to obtain permission to install "hard structures" such as cement chunks and stone walls on the beaches in front of vulnerable dunes.
Newbury Selectman Joe Story said he has been in contact with officials in the governor's office about winning approval, and he expects to report back on the organization's request in coming weeks.