NEWBURYPORT – City officials have finalized a $1.7 million contract with SPS New England, Inc. to begin work on the first phase of the central waterfront bulkhead repair project to begin in coming weeks.
Municipal leaders and engineers have concluded that work must be done to fortify the boardwalk, and numerous meetings have been held to plan the project.
Much of the funding is from a state grant from the Seaport Advisory Council and Department of Conservation and Recreation, with supplementary funding from the city, the Newburyport Waterfront Trust, the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority, and the Newburyport Harbor Commission.
Built primarily in 1977 and 1987, the central waterfront’s bulkheads are the vertical steel walls that stabilize the shoreline and support the boardwalk, the commercial fish pier, and the pilings that anchor the seasonal floats for both private boats and commercial tour boats.
The bulkhead supporting the commercial fish pier is in poor condition, city officials say. Many of the steel fender and mooring piles, patched in 2008, are corroded and need complete replacement.
A new void is opening at the seawall (temporarily repaired in 2010 after a large sinkhole opened) underneath the boardwalk bridge to the west of the harbormaster’s office.
Divers have documented a line of underwater holes opening up along the cellular steel bulkhead supporting the boardwalk, which will eventually undermine the boardwalk’s foundations if left unchecked, engineers say.
The city hired Bourne Consulting Engineers (BCE) in November 2012 to design, permit, and manage construction of the bulkhead and seawall repairs in coordination with the Waterfront Trust and the NRA.
BCE’s total cost estimates for comprehensive long-term repairs total about $5 million. City officials plan to do the work in phases, based upon available resources.
Mayor Donna Holaday, in a statement, said “This grant-funded project will help maintain and improve Newburyport’s thriving harbor and waterfront.”
Working between the boating seasons, the spring fish migration, and the seasonal demand for parking at the central waterfront, the contractor will begin the project soon and is obligated to complete work by mid-May 2014. SPS is a major construction firm based in Salisbury.
“A mild winter will allow the project to run smoothly,” said Geordie Vining, senior project manager for the city. “A severe winter could restrict work and require everyone to be patient as the project is finished next spring.
“We apologize for any temporary inconvenience the project may cause. There is, unfortunately, no good time to do this work given river fish habitat and the public’s use of the boardwalk, floats, and parking lots.”
City officials hope to secure additional funding to support the rest of the project – repairing the cellular bulkhead and pilings to the east of the central embayment – as a future Phase II.