NEWBURYPORT — State and local officials intent on generating financial support to fortify the jetties at the mouth of the Merrimack River are finalizing a lobbying trip to Washington in early October.
Those who plan to attend include state Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester; state Sen. Steven Baddour, D-Metheun; state Rep. Mike Costello, D-Newburyport; Mayor Donna Holaday of Newburyport; Selectman Joe Story of Newbury and possibly some support staff from local communities.
Organizers said it is unclear whether state Rep. Harriett Stanley, D-West Newbury, will be able to attend.
"It looks like it's going to be Oct. 4," said Tarr, whose district includes Newbury. "Our hope is to get funding for the jetties back on track, because before there were changes in the (federal) budget, we thought work would start this summer.
"In some ways, this is uncharted (financial) area and we want to make our case."
Tarr said that the group plans to meet with U.S. Sens. John Kerry and Scott Brown and U.S. Rep. John Tierney, the Democratic congressman who represents northern Essex County.
In addition, the group is setting up meetings with D.C.-based leaders of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The north and south jetties at the mouth of the river are receding into the sand due to natural movement of the ocean and the sea bottom, experts say.
The jetties, each of which is more than 1,000 feet long, protect the beaches at Plum Island, especially from wave action coming from the northeast.
Without them, navigation would be compromised and beach erosion would increase, according to authorities on Plum Island.
In recent weeks, the drive to improve the jetties has been energized by the discovery that tons of stone that could fortify the jetties are available in nearby Seabrook.
They would have to be transported south several miles, perhaps by barge, but local officials feel that this could be a cost-reducing factor.
"Transportation is a major expense and having stone so close can improve our proposal when the time comes," Story said.
"People were talking about getting stone from Maine, even Canada. If it comes from Seabrook, our cost will be that much less."
In addition to playing the "stone card," local officials say that the presence of Brown could be an advantage. The senator spent much time on the island while growing up.
"Sen. Brown has expressed interest in protecting the island and Sen. Kerry has been listening as well," said Tarr, who is organizing the trip. "I think going down as a delegation will help our cause."