NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

June 18, 2014

$2.9 million eyed for dune, marsh protection

PLUM ISLAND — Millions of dollars are being targeted for restoring and protecting the Great Marsh and the dunes along Salisbury and Plum Island as part of a concerted effort to better prepare the region for catastrophic storms.

The National Wildlife Federation yesterday announced it received a $2.9 million restoration grant from the federal Department of the Interior. The money will be used for a variety of projects — among them importing sand to shore up dunes, planting dunegrass, ridding the marsh of invasive non-native plants, and studying the ebb and flow of sand along the beaches and through the marsh.

The goal is to strengthen the marsh and protect the barrier beaches that line the local coast, particularly in the event of severe storms such as Hurricane Sandy, which devastated parts of the New York and New Jersey shoreline. Those shorelines are similar to the Greater Newburyport coast.

Several agencies teamed together to put the grant together. Five specific goals were identified, according to Chris Hilke, manager of the Climate Change Adaptation Program at the federation’s Northeast bureau.

“Our whole focus from the beginning was to put together a suite of projects that have synergy,” he said. The five general projects are:

Dune nourishment and native vegetation planting.

Native habitat restoration through invasive species removal.

Study of “hydrological barriers” along the coast, such as storm walls and dunes.

Study of “sediment transport”; the migration of sand along the coast and its impact on erosion.

Helping local communities plan for storms, reduce risks and increase their resilience.

One key aspect of the project will be directed by Greg Moore of the University of New Hampshire’s School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering. His goal will be to rebuild some of the eroded dunes at Salisbury Beach, and restore native dune plants to Salisbury and Plum Island. Dune plants are seen as a natural defensive barrier against storms, because their roots hold the dune together and their grasses collect drifting sand.

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