NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

March 15, 2013

Building back the beach

Salisbury works to repair storm damage, replenish shore

By Angeljean Chiaramida
STAFF WRITER

---- — SALISBURY BEACH — As crews worked yesterday to either remove or replace pilings along the beach off Broadway, local and state officials are hoping more help is on the way to restore Salisbury’s storm-ravaged shores.

Last Friday’s storm tides gouged out tens of thousands of cubic yards of sand from the beach, leaving dunes devastated, waterfront homes vulnerable and the shore itself unsafe.

With damage more severe than anyone can remember, local officials and legislators appealed to the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, which owns the beach, as well as to the Department of Environmental Protection, which regulates what can be done along state wetlands.

The hope is that DCR will take whatever steps necessary to restore the beach and its dune system. That includes moving hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of sand back onto the beach that shifted during the storm to form a sandbar by Salisbury’s north jetty at the mouth of the Merrimack River. Homeowners are also hoping DEP agrees to allow them to shore up the dunes in front of their homes.

On Tuesday, a conference call earlier brought together town officials, state legislators as well as DCR Commissioner Ed Lambert and DEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell. According to Town Manager Neil Harrington, the town asked DEP to relax its regulations and allow homeowners to push back sand that had blown onto their properties during the storm.

Harrington said two things are required before the sandbar can be mined, with the sand restored to the beach and dune systems — a permit from DEP and money to undertake the project. The latter could be harder to find than the permit, since the project will be costly, he said.

“I think we made a good case,” said Harrington, who expects to have an answer from DEP soon.

Over the past week, DCR engineers and officials have been on Salisbury Beach assessing the damage, securing dangerous areas and formulating a plan to remove about four dozen pilings that were exposed on the beach beyond Broadway as a result of the eroision.

On Wednesday, DCR Deputy Commissioner of Operations Jack Murray visited Salisbury Beach as his agency continued working with DEP to make the summer recreation spot safe for visitors and residents alike.

Murray said that while nature can be blamed for scouring out the shore during the recent storm, nature also has already begun to repair the damage it caused.

“We really want to remove all the pilings that were exposed and we got a permit to do that,” Murray said Wednesday.

Last Saturday, there were 48 pilings, some exposed by as much as 4 feet. As of Wednesday, 32 had been covered up with sand again.

Although hidden again, DCR engineers mapped their placement and on Wednesday, about 18 old and jagged wooden pilings, some from old beachside structures like the Frolics, were pulled out. More were removed yesterday.

Meanwhile, at Surfside 5, which has been pounded by this winter’s storms, crews from SPS New England yesterday were removing pilings under the deck and replacing them. An emergency certificate was granted for the work.

The town’s Public Works Department was also at work at the beach center yesterday, with crews trying to clean up the huge piles of debris that had washed up during the storm as well as broken pieces of pavement from the road abutting the beach.

DPW Director Don Levesque said he was pleased to see some sand washing back along the lower shores of the beach. But Levesque believes sand still needs to be brought in to restore the eroded dune system along the beach center and parts of the northern stretch of beach.

Concrete barriers are still up along the center’s beachfront area as a safety measure since the storm destroyed the dunes completely, causing a precipitous drop down to the beach. The public is being advised to stay off the beach, and especially what’s left of the dunes.