Officials bring focus on need for more funds to help Plum Island

JIM SULLIVAN/Staff photoState Sen. Bruce Tarr speaks at the microphone Monday at Reservation Terrace on Plum Island as other officials, including Congressman Seth Moulton, Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday and state Rep. James Kelcourse, listen.

NEWBURY — U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton joined state and local officials in putting out a call to protect the Plum Island shoreline Monday afternoon.

Marc Sarkady, the president of the Plum Island Foundation, said last week the federal fiscal 2021 budget includes $19 million for dredging sand from the Merrimack and Piscataqua rivers, with some of that sand used to stem erosion along the Reservation Terrace beach.

An additional $250,000 to $350,000 will have to be raised from sources other than the federal government to haul the sand before the dredging project can get underway.

Moulton, a Salem Democrat, was joined by state Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, and state Reps. Jim Kelcourse, R-Amesbury, and Lenny Mirra, R-Georgetown, as well as Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday at Reservation Terrace on Monday to help make the case for additional funding.

“That, ladies and gentlemen, does not happen and it could not happen without a unified front,” Tarr said.

Sarkady said the effort to obtain the federal funding is democracy in action.

“It is a great thing when it works,” he said.

Tarr told the crowd at Reservation Terrace that help is on the way but finding the added funding requires regulatory flexibility.

“We still need to muster the state and local resources to pay for our nonfederal share of the sand that we hope to put on these beaches very soon,” Tarr said. “But we have to get there. We have to get there so we are not putting sand in front of devastated homes, eroded roadways, destroyed public infrastructure.”

Tarr pointed to the fact the Reservation Terrace Beach is state-owned property when asked why Plum Island should take precedence in receiving further funding.

“This is a resource for the entire state,” he said. “It is important for our quality of life that we continue to make it accessible and available to people without it being eroded and disappearing.”

He said the funding would mean a lot to residents who have had to endure the reality of winter storms on Plum Island for years.

“If you were here having to evacuate your parents from the first floor of your home, $350,000 is monumental,” Tarr said. “If you are one of the most prosperous states in the United States of America, it is something that should be doable.”

Moulton said Plum Island is on the “front lines of climate change.”

“When a bad storm hits, I pick up the phone and start calling local officials,” he said. “Too many times when I have called the mayor, Donna has said to me, ‘It’s pretty bad and it’s going to take a lot to come back from.’ Those of you who live here are familiar with this. We want you to know that we are in it with you.”

Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at jsullivan@newburyportnews.com or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.

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