NEWBURYPORT, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — Massachusetts lawmakers have secured more than $7 million in funding for a major operations and maintenance project at Newburyport Harbor.
According to Rep. Seth Moulton's office, the approval of $7.3 million in funding for the Newburyport Harbor Federal Navigation Project means the federal channel will be dredged for the first time since 2010.
"Harbor dredging rarely makes the news, but it’s a huge deal for us," Rep. Moulton said. "Dredging protects thousands of people’s homes and land from flooding. It determines where fishermen can make a living, where people can vacation, and how well the Coast Guard can respond when things don’t go according to plan."
Rep. Moulton, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey wrote a letter in early January to the OMB Director asking that the project be included in the Army Corps annual budget, citing the harbor’s significance to the local economy.
Neburyport Harbor has been used by commercial and recreational fishermen for generations. The channel is also used for tour boat operations, and it is home to the United States Coast Guard Station Merrimack.
Last dredged in October in 2010, Moulton's office said the harbor has accumulated enough sand to prevent lifeboats from USCG Station Merrimack from crossing at low tide, which could delay lifesaving missions and present a hazard to public safety.
"Dredging the channel will restore the ability of the Coast Guard and dependent industries to resume regular activities," Rep. Moulton's office said. "Furthermore, the removed sediment can be relocated to Plum Island, whose years of coastal erosion threaten the integrity of the barrier island and leave its inhabitants vulnerable to storm damage and flooding."
Senator Warren called the funding "an essential investment in the Newburyport Harbor, which plays an integral role in the safety, transportation, and commerce of the North Shore."
According to State Senator Bruce Tarr, dredging the Merrimack River and nourishing the beaches and dunes of Plum Island is critical not only to navigation, but also to public safety and the protection of homes and public infrastructure.
"There is fierce competition for funding for these types of projects at the national level, and securing this approval could and would not have happened without a unified effort between officials at the local, state and federal levels, non-governmental organizations, and residents," Tarr said. "We are deeply grateful for the partnership and leadership of Congressman Moulton and Senators Markey and Warren in making this happen.”
WBZ NewsRadio's Karyn Regal reports:
(Photo: Getty Images)