News Column

Beach funds eyed for region

July 12, 2014

By Dyke Hendrickson, The Daily News of Newburyport, Mass.

July 12--NEWBURYPORT -- Efforts to secure funds in a pending state environmental bond bill for local seaside communities increased this week, with a regional board calling for supplemental funding and state Sen. Kathleen O'Connor Ives, D-Newburyport, pushing for close to a half-dozen projects in this area.

Members of the Merrimack River Beach Alliance yesterday resolved to increase lobbying efforts to acquire funds for several local seaside improvement projects.

And in a separate development, the office of O'Connor Ives reported that the senator has secured five local projects in the Senate version of the environmental bond bill that will be considered by legislators and Gov. Deval Patrick in coming weeks.

The MRBA is a loosely knit organization of local officials from a half-dozen local waterside communities that is charged with protecting and/or improving the beach and rivers of the Merrimack River watershed.

It is co-chaired by state Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, and Jerry Klima, a lawyer and long-time public official in Salisbury.

Tarr yesterday noted that the state environmental bond bill for Fiscal Year 2015 is nearing finalization. The fiscal year began July 1.

He said that O'Connor Ives and state Rep. Mike Costello, D-Newburyport, have been active in earmarking several large funding projects for North Shore coastal communities.

Regarding smaller supplemental projects, he urged members to provide support by letters and phone calls for several funding projects that affect local beaches.

The organization voted to support a $133,000 supplement for a green-crab control program.

Green crabs, which are native to European waters, attack native shellfish, including clams, mussels, other crabs, small fish, marsh and eel grasses. Public officials from Massachusetts to Maine have expressed concern that the green crab is looming as not just a threat to shellfish but to the vocations built around it.

The MRBA also voted to send letters of support to legislators urging additional financial support of a program to eradicate phragmites. This is a non-native, fast-growing weed that authorities say threatens natural foliage growth along the river and in the marshes.

In other business, MRBA members heard a report from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,. which said the project to fortify the south and north jetties is on schedule.

A Coast Guard spokesman said engineers are considering putting a warning light at the end of the south jetty to alert vessels that they are nearing the narrow waterway.

Meanwhile, the office of O'Connor Ives said the following local projects are part of the senate's version of the bill, which will be discussed in coming days by a bi-partisan conference committee:

$3 million for the purchase of at least 750,000 cubic feet of sand suitable for near-shore placement for Plum Island and Salisbury.

$2.7 million for a landfill fund for the city of Newburyport for maintaining, monitoring and response to the Crow Lane landfill "to ensure public safety."

$1.4 million for a Salisbury comfort station and lifeguard post.

$1 million for the design, permitting, remediation and reconstruction of the bulkhead wall along the Powwow and Back rivers at the Heritage Park in Amesbury.

$150,000 to improve water quality at Lake Attitash in Amesbury.

Deliberation on the bond bill will continue next week.

It is not a given that all the above projects will be part of the final funding measure.

Also, money secured through a bond bill is released at the discretion of the governor, state officials say.


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Source: Daily News of Newburyport (MA)

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