Richard K. Lodge / The Daily News of Newburyport

MA - Feds Funding $19m for Sand Dredging of the Merrimack and Piscataqua Rivers to Help Local Beaches

Sand from Merrimack, Piscataqua rivers to replenish local beaches

PLUM ISLAND — The federal budget for the coming fiscal year includes $19 million for dredging sand from the Merrimack and Piscataqua rivers, with thousands of cubic yards of that sand targeted to help stem erosion at the beach along Reservation Terrace.

Plum Island Foundation President Marc Sarkady said more than 220,000 cubic yards of sand from the Merrimack River is expected to be used to rebuild the beach at Reservation Terrace.

The project – which is in the federal fiscal 2021 budget and awaits a local funding component of $250,000 to $1.8 million — would move between 200,000 and 300,000 cubic yards of sand from the Piscataqua River for placement near shore to protect the area from continuing erosion from major storms and waves.

"People are going to see between eight and 15 feet of additional beach right in front of their homes," Sarkady said. "I know there is a lot of work ahead of us and we all have to work together."

The Piscataqua River sand is not all beach grade and will be placed at disposal sites not far off of Newbury and Salisbury, where the current is expected to carry the material to the beaches in Salisbury, Newburyport and Newbury, according to state Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester.

"There is an element of natural selection here," Tarr said. "Nature will sort out the grain size and carry the appropriate sediment to the beach. There is some glacial till in this and you wouldn't want to put that on the beach. The right way to do it is to put it in these two areas and, over time, let it nourish the beaches."

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