August 5, 2008

$2.5 Million Beach Fund Approved By House

By victor tine, The Daily News of Newburyport, Mass.

Aug. 5--PLUM ISLAND -- A $2.5 million fund for sand restoration and beach erosion control at Plum Island has passed the state Legislature and now awaits the signature of Gov. Deval Patrick.

The amendment to an Environmental Bond Bill, sponsored by Sens. Bruce Tarr and Steven Baddour, emerged from the House unscathed at the end of last week. Tarr is a Gloucester Republican whose district includes Newbury, and Baddour is a Methuen Democrat who counts Newburyporters among his constituents.

Both men have recently expressed optimism that Patrick will sign the bill.

The money will be used to finance whatever plan local and state officials devise to build up the beach, especially at Plum Island Center, although the measure does not restrict spending to any one location on the island.

The fund will be administered by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, according to a copy of the bill released by state Rep. Harriett Stanley's office yesterday. Stanley is a West Newbury Democrat who also represents Newbury.

Newbury will also be the recipient of a $100,000 Lighter, Amphibious, Resupply, Cargo vehicle "to transport personnel, equipment and materials in the beachfront area of Plum Island," according to the text of the bill.

Since the beginning of the year, Tarr has chaired a series of meetings of federal, state and local officials in an attempt to come up with both immediate and long-term solutions to what has become an increasingly serious beach erosion problem on the island.

Plum Island Center is considered the critical point because the erosion is worst there. A section of the deck of the former Jeanne's restaurant building has been removed because the dune under it was compromised.

In addition, the Center is at the confluence of Plum Island Boulevard, the only road on and off the island, and Northern and Southern boulevards, the principal routes in both directions. A breach at the Center could potentially cut off access to the mainland and create a public safety hazard.


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