NEWBURYPORT — The mayor has secured $350,000 from the state to install wood pilings and coir bags as short-term protection on Plum Island amid uncertainty over a timeline for the dredging of sand from the Merrimack and Piscataqua rivers.
Speaking before the City Council on Monday, Mayor Donna Holaday said she spoke with Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides earlier in the day.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers only received one bid for the dredging project, which is supposed to begin this fall and bring 260,000 cubic yards of sand to help replenish the beaches around Reservation Terrace.
The government expected the cost to be about $4.8 million, but the lone bid came in at $8.9 million, or nearly twice what was expected, according to the mayor.
“Obviously, we have a major problem with getting this dredge project moving forward,” she said.
Once the dredging begins, it’s not clear how long the work would take.
GZA GeoEnvironmental had already created a design for wood pilings and coir bags as a short-term solution, costing $450,000.
Despite initial hesitancy from state Department of Conservation and Recreation officials to use money for a short-term project, Theoharides authorized $350,000 in state funding for the city to move forward with the coir bag project.
An additional $100,000 was requested by the mayor to be transferred from the city’s Plum Island utility trust fund to this shoreline protection project.
The transfer proposal, introduced as a late-file item at the council meeting, was referred to the Committee on Budget & Finance for further discussion.
Holaday added that she spoke to representatives from Sen. Edward Markey’s office who will coordinate with the offices of Rep. Seth Moulton and Sen. Elizabeth Warren to work with the Army Corps to get the dredging project going.
On Thursday, the city had to shut off water at 55 Reservation Terrace and two adjacent homes after high tide threatened to damage the area’s already vulnerable water system.
Lela Wright, who lives at 55 Reservation Terrace with her husband, Mark, spoke during the meeting’s public period Monday.
She explained how they are “currently receiving water through a garden hose attached to a neighbor’s spigot.”
She and other Plum Island residents invited councilors to visit the area and see what has happened.
With the impact of recent storms and high tides, Wright is worried that the coir bag project would not suffice.
“We had 32 feet between our home and the river’s edge,” she said. “The amount of space that is left between the city’s property and the state’s property is not large enough for the coir bag project.”
Daily News reporter Dave Rogers contributed to this report.
Staff reporter Heather Alterisio can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 978-961-3149. Follow her on Twitter @HeathAlt.