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March 29, 2013

Jetty work to get reprieve

Project must have 'plover monitor' on site

NEWBURYPORT — Work on the south jetty has been extended for at least 15 days thanks to the expected presence of a “plover monitor.”

The placement of heavy rock to fortify the jetty at the mouth of the Merrimack River had been scheduled to end Sunday as part of federal guidelines created so that the piping plovers can nest and procreate.

A spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers yesterday said that the jetty work can continue at least another 15 days past the deadline if a monitor is on site to ensure that appropriate conditions are maintained for the birds.

“We have a few names that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife agency has supplied,” said Ed O’Donnell, an engineering manager with the Corps of Engineers in Concord.

“The construction company will be responsible for putting a monitor on site and making sure conditions are good for the birds.”

The improvement of the jetties has been a major concern this spring due to significant erosion damage to dunes in front of homes on the south end of Plum Island’s developed coastline.

Corps officials say that if the south jetty is heightened and strengthened, it could shield the beach from storm-driven surf that is contributing to erosion. The thought that the work would stop on Sunday had troubled some homeowners and local officials.

Mayor Donna Holaday, for instance, spoke at a meeting of Plum Island homeowners recently and declared that there must be a balance between the needs of homeowners who live on the island and the plovers that migrate to the beach to lay their eggs. She criticized the federal Fish and Wildlife Service for putting a potential roadblock in the way of fixing the jetties in a timely manner.

The construction firm of HK & S, Inc. of Newport began bringing stone from Seabrook in early December. It has fortified and heightened about 600 feet of the south jetty, officials say.

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