Mayor: Stone Structure Helped Protect P.I. Homes


While this week’s winter storm lashed Greater Newburyport for more than 24 hours, starting late Monday and through Tuesday, Plum Island’s fragile coastline appears to have suffered no lasting effects.

Mayor Sean Reardon said the area between 73rd and 75th streets, where Reservation Terrace is located, weathered this week’s storm reasonably well, thanks to a stone structure installed in October 2021 between 69th and 77th Streets.

“The stone structure held up and absorbed a lot of energy. A significant amount of water still got through,

Plum Island hole in the (Stone) Wall

particularly on 75th St. A lot of sand was also pushed around.

So we will work over the next few days to solidify that structure a bit,” he said.

At-Large Councilor and Reservation Terrace resident Mark Wright, who lives across the street from a vacant home at 15 73rd St., which was heavily damaged during a Christmas weekend storm, said the slabs protected his neighbor’s property well.

“The house is still standing, and the rocks helped to protect it, as well as the fact that the first floor is completely open,” he said.

Wright, however, has roughly 4 feet of sand surrounding his home after the Christmas storm and added his property was also undamaged by this week’s weather due in most part to the stone structure.

Reardon also said the Department of Public Services is working to reinforce the structure and push a Reservation Terrace dune back into shape.

“Then we’ll just be waiting for the dredge to arrive,” he said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working with New York-based H&L Contracting on a $9 million federal project to dredge 226,000 cubic yards of sand from the Salisbury and Newburyport sides of the Merrimack River. The dredged sand would then be placed on the beach at Reservation Terrace.

The 220-foot dredger Oyster Bay was brought in by H&L Contracting and quickly completed the 9-foot dredge in Newburyport last November.

The project had initially been scheduled to end by March 31, but H&L Contracting was recently granted an extension to complete the project after a combination of winter weather and mechanical issues derailed the work beginning in December.

The Oyster Bay left Plum Island last week. A subcontractor based out of Chesapeake, Virginia — Norfolk Dredging Company — is expected to deliver its bigger brother, a roughly 400-foot dredger, to the area soon to finish the job by April 30, according to Reardon.

“We’re hearing they will be here by the end of March, early April, and are hoping for an early April start. They will have a larger pipe, and it is a larger boat. They’re saying it should take about eight continuous days of dredging, whereas we were talking about three weeks of dredging before. So they will be able to do the job more quickly. It’s just a matter of how quickly they can mobilize and start pumping the sand out of there,” he said.

Wright said he and his neighbors have grown weary of dredging announcements after so many stop and restarts this winter.

“People are discouraged by the lack of progress made so far. The dredge has been touted as the solution here, and we’re at the mercy of the elements until they get the sand on the beach,” he said.

Wright added the Army Corps of Engineers would also need to address the problem it created when it built the Plum Island breakwater without a spur roughly ten years ago.

Reardon said he continues to work with state Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, and the Department of Conservation and Recreation on arranging for ten truckloads of sand to be delivered in the area of 75th to 77th Streets, thanks to a donation from the Plum Island-based Captain’s Fishing Parties and Cruises.

“We understand that we can do it, but we don’t want to announce anything and have it disappear. So I think that will have to happen probably after we get the dredged sand out there first,” he said.

The city has also entered into an inter-municipal agreement with Salisbury to dredge additional sand from just outside the 9-foot navigation channel just west of the jetty to help boaters better navigate the shallow waters.

Reardon said Norfolk Dredging Company is expected to perform the work on that $78,000 project as well.

Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Newburyport for The Daily News.


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