SALISBURY BEACH — With the tourist season quickly approaching, a huge fleet of dump trucks and excavators is busy harvesting sand and relocating it along the beach’s winter-ravaged shores.
Crews sent by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, which owns Salisbury Beach, have been on site since last week mining sand from the north jetty sandbar to replenish Salisbury’s eroded dune system. According to Salisbury Conservation Agent Michele Rowden, the process of harvesting sand should be completed by today, weather and tides permitting.
Once it is harvested, the relocated sand will need to be shaped, she said, and then fencing will be set up along the area in hopes of preventing the sand from blowing away.
Rowden said since work must be done during low tides, workers operating the trucks filled with tons of sand have been working at all hours and until late at night, to get the job done, but she hasn’t heard any complaints from abutting beach residents.
“People seem to be very welcoming,” Rowden said. “The only complaints I’ve heard are from people who are afraid the sand will run out before they can repair the dunes in front of their homes.”
Rowden has been on the beach since the process began to ensure crews follow the plan approved by Salisbury’s Conservation Commission. So far, work to restore dunes fronting Salisbury Beach Center is complete, Rowden said.
Workers are currently relocating sand to the area between beach access ways 6 and 8, she said. Aside from the Beach Center, that was an area that was the hardest hit by the February blizzard and the ocean storm that ravaged the beach during three days of thundering tides in early March. The failure of the dune system there sent water crashing into homes that had never experienced problems previously.
Rowden said she doesn’t know how many cubic yards of sand were able to be removed from above the watermark along the sandbar at Salisbury’s north jetty. However, it is possible that there won’t be enough to completely fill in all the storm-affected areas, she said.
DCR agreed to harvest about 15,000 cubic yards of sand from a large erosion-formed sandbar at the north jetty to make repairs to the dunes. But that isn’t very much sand, and Salisbury officials and residents along with state legislators Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives, D-Newburyport, and Rep. Michael Costello, D-Newburyport, believe more sand is required to protect private property and ensure the safety of beachgoers. Costello and O’Connor Ives have promised to seek more resources.
Costello placed $300,000 in the House of Representatives’ version of next year’s state budget to augment the renourishment of Salisbury Beach State Reservation. The hope is that money will remain when the final budget arrives on the governor’s desk.
In the meantime, the work has taken its toll on the heavy equipment used, Rowden said. Tuesday, one of the huge dump trucks sat broken down near Broadway, listing badly to one said, its tire sheared from its wheel.
“I know the work has been hard on the trucks,” Rowden said. “I think sand is hard to work with. It’s very heavy and it gets into everything.”