BY DYKE HENDRICKSON
---- — NEWBURYPORT — Local and state officials concerned about oceanside erosion have launched an initiative to acquire sand from the Piscataqua River that might be used to populate vulnerable beaches.
In a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the co-chairs of the Merrimack River Beach Alliance, state Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, and Jerry Klima, selectman in Salisbury, are asking for sand being dredged in Portsmouth Harbor “for near-shore placement off Plum Island and Salisbury Beach.”
The letter, finalized last week, said, “We understand that the Corps of Engineers is working on a project to improve the Piscataqua River by dredging and removing 720,000 cubic yards of sand that the Corps believes is clean and compatible with our beaches.
“The sand is slated to be disposed in the ocean north of the Isles of Shoals, but is available for beneficial near-shore placement if the approximately $2 per cubic yard extra cost of transport is borne by a non-federal sponsor.”
The letter said that the alliance could generate the money to pay for the sand and its transportation.
At recent alliance meetings, Army engineers have said they would listen to requests for the sand. They indicated that after the dredging, the sand has to be disposed of somewhere.
The town of Wells, Maine, is among communities to be also interested in the sand, and thus Tarr and Klima, on behalf of the alliance, have made a written request.
The Merrimack River Beach Alliance (MRBA) is comprised of representatives of the three municipalities of Newbury, Newburyport and Salisbury as well as interested governmental officials and non-governmental organizations.
The letter that Tarr and Klima wrote stated, “We worked cooperatively with the Corps of Engineers on the recent Merrimack River dredging and beach replenishment project that placed sand on the beaches north of Plum Island Center and near the south end of Salisbury Beach.
“The project was highly beneficial, but much more sand is needed to help protect the homes, businesses and infrastructure on the beaches.”