, Newburyport, MA


March 1, 2013

The ebb and flow of Plum Island


That call would have been during the time relating to the rebuilding of the jetties, accompanied as always by differences of opinion relating to the why and wherefore of their relationship to beach erosion.

The congressman did as I asked, and some weeks later, I received a telephone call from the Army Corps of Engineers regional commander asking what I had in mind. I told him what was needed was research relating to the river’s currents and their effects under all conditions as related to the shorelines at the river’s mouth and the beaches beyond.

He said that calls for study instead of reconstruction was considerably different from the usual kind of request for definitive action to overcome a problem.

Just as we were about to end our discussion, he surprised me by asking whether I had been a Corps of Engineers platoon commander at Ft. Belvoir early in our Second World War. I said I had been, and the conversation took a less technical and more warming tone because it turned out that he had been a trainee in my platoon and I had recommended him as an officer candidate. He was chosen and made his service a lifetime career.

The fruit of all that transpired is contained in a Corps of Engineers report of the “Newburyport Harbor Design for Hydrodynamics, Salinity, and Sedimentation by virtue of a Hydraulic Model Investigation.”

What follows is an excerpt from the initial navigation project that began in 1880 and the details of the study of the 1960s.

The short of it is that “extensive data of currents, water depths, erosion and all related issues” was gathered. Two hydraulic models of the river were then constructed and tested at the U.S. Army Engineer Waterways Experiment Station in Mississippi to study plans designed to eliminate or minimize problems.

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