By Dave Rogers
---- — SEABROOK — The process of dredging as much as 120,000 cubic yards of sand from the bottom of Hampton Harbor onto Seabrook beaches has begun; and if all goes well, it could be completed by the end of the year, according to Army Corps of Engineers officials.
Project manager Richard Heidebrecht said a total of 150,000 to 170,000 cubic yards of sand will be scooped up by a hydraulic dredge during that time with the majority of sand heading for Seabrook beaches via 8,000 feet of pipe. The remaining 50,000 cubic yards will be used to replenish sand on Hampton Beach.
The method is similar to the type used by the Army Corps of Engineers in 2010 at the mouth of the Merrimack River. In that operation, sand was dredged from the river mouth in order to deepen the channel. It was pumped onto Plum Island and Salisbury Beach. Both areas had suffered significant erosion and the sand was used to literally reshape the beaches.
As was the case with the Merrimack River dredging in 2010, the main goal of the Hampton dredging project is to deepen Hampton Harbor, which sometimes can be as shallow as 2 or 3 feet deep during low tide. Such a shallow harbor has stranded many fishing, pleasure and ice-hauling boats over the years.
Once the dredging project is completed, it is estimated Hampton Harbor will be 8 feet deep at low tide, according to Heidebrecht. Hampton Harbor is located about five miles north of Newburyport Harbor.
The Seabrook side of the harbor is expected to be completed first before work shifts to the Hampton side. Once the sand is pumped onto the beaches, it will be graded to create a gradual slope. The project also calls for snowfencing to be erected along 800 feet of Seabrook Beach, in an effort to protect piping plover habitat.
“It helps nourish the coastal system, so that’s why we’re putting it on the beach,” Heidebrecht said.
The Hampton Harbor project will cost $3.16 million, while the smaller Merrimack River project cost $5.5 million. The projects have different contractors — Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. of Oak Brook, Ill., won the bid on the Merrimack River project, after the Army Corps was forced to delay the process and revise the project scope due to changes in the erosion patterns on the beach. The Hampton Harbor project is under the direction of Southwind Construction Corp., with financial assistance from the Pease Development Authority.
Also, bids for the Plum Island project came in above the initial projected cost of about $3.6 million, which forced the Army Corps to extend the bidding process and seek more funds.
Engineers had hoped to begin the dredging project earlier, but thanks to Hurricane Sandy and a nor’easter that followed Sandy days later, dredging was pushed back a few days, according to Army Corps officials.
“There was a lot of wave action that delayed the start for a little bit,” Heidebrecht said.