, Newburyport, MA

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February 25, 2013

Seabrook stalling dredge sign-off

Officials won't release bond until all repairs complete


Issues have plagued the project all along the way. For starters, selectmen agreed to allow an 800-foot-long snow fence to be installed along the beach to protect piping plover nesting areas after state and federal wildlife officials said the birds had been harassed by some beachfront property owners.

The fence runs from Hooksett Street south along a stretch of beach where there are numerous homes. Although town-owned access ways at the end of streets are left open, several private access trails over the dunes were closed. Many beach residents have been up in arms that their once pristine views of the ocean are now undermined by the spikes of snow fencing.

While the plans for fencing were announced last October, Selectman Aboul Khan said he still gets numerous calls from beach residents furious that the board allowed it to be installed on the town-owned portion of the beach because of government pressure. Khan said during numerous discussions with state and federal regulators, selectmen found themselves torn between fencing to protect plover nesting areas and a clogged-up harbor that was hampering the state’s struggling commercial fishing fleet. Khan said the town had little choice but to go along with the wildlife agencies’ demands. He said if officials had refused the fencing mandate, the dredge of the busiest commercial harbor in New Hampshire would have been held up. Further, he said, Seabrook would have forfeited ever getting sand to replenish its beach in the future.

The dredge encountered more trouble in late November when a 35,000-pound excavator ended up in 16 feet of water under the Hampton Harbor Bridge after falling off a barge used to couple dredge piping together.

The accident happened after Southwind personnel noticed its unmanned barge in the outer harbor was taking on water. The 10-foot-tall, 28-foot-long John Deere 160 LC excavator fell off as workers tried to sail the barge back from the outer harbor to the Seabrook dock.

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