NEWBURYPORT — After the project was put on hold last month, the Department of Public Services is back on track building a protective berm on Northern Reservation Terrace.
The winter’s series of nor’easters brought high surf and astronomically high tides to Plum Island, resulting in serious flooding and washover that diminished sand dunes and encroached upon the homes in the Reservation Terrace neighborhood.
In response, the city has been working to protect the nearby houses by using sand dredged from the beach surrounding Captain’s Fishing Parties & Cruises, as well as some sand purchased by neighborhood residents.
But, according to DPS Director Tony Furnari, the city had trouble finding the right bird monitor to look after the nearby population of piping plovers, and the project was paused.
“MassWildlife requested that we have a bird monitor and it took them two weeks to get the person they wanted,” Furnari said. “That person is onboard now and we’ve restarted the project.”
The piping plover is classified as a threatened shorebird under state and federal regulations.
Furnari said four workers are involved in the project and that by the end of the work, 800 to 900 cubic yards of sand will be put in place on the Northern Reservation Terrace dune.
In an update at the City Council meeting Monday night, Mayor Donna Holaday told councilors that approximately 25 percent of the sand has been placed at the site and the remaining work should be finished within the next 10 days.
Holaday said the city is still waiting on a final decision from the Army Corps of Engineers on whether it will fund a Piscataqua River dredge in New Hampshire that could provide more than 300,000 cubic yards of sand for near-shore placement off Salisbury and Plum Island. A regional purchase of a dredge is also being considered.
Holaday said state Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives, D-Newburyport, is working with the city to establish a fund for dune nourishment from an increase in parking fees at the Plum Island point parking lot – not from other city parking lots. The city of Newburyport owns half the Plum Island lot and the state Department of Conservation and Recreation owns the other half, the mayor said.
Staff writer Jack Shea covers Newburyport City Hall. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 978-961-3154. Follow him on Twitter @iamjackshea.
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