Newburyport, Mass. – Today, Rep. Seth Moulton with Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey announced that they secured $7.3 million in funding for the Newburyport Harbor Federal Navigation Project in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers FY 2021 Work Plan. The win 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. That’s why, for the last several years, we have worked hard to make sure this money comes home to us, not to the other coastal states fighting over a small supply of funding. I’m proud that we can claim victory and get the harbor dredged.”
Senator Warren said: “This funding is an essential investment in the Newburyport Harbor, which plays an integral role in the safety, transportation, and commerce of the North Shore. Our coastal communities are unique and resilient, and I am committed to ensuring the federal government remains a strong partner for them.”
Senator Markey said: “I am pleased to see the Newburyport Federal Navigation Project included in the Army Corps’ FY21 Work Plan. After years of advocacy from elected and community leaders alike, this dredging project will not only make navigation in the Merrimack River safer, but will also help significantly mitigate erosion on Plum Island through the placement of dredged sand. Our coastal communities continue to face the impacts of climate change, and this dredging project is an important tool to protect against worsening storms and flood events.”
State Senator Bruce Tarr said: “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. We are deeply grateful for the partnership and leadership of Congressman Moulton and Senators Markey and  Warren in making this happen”
Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday said: “It has been a very challenging time for residents on Plum Island particularly for those in the Reservation Terrace area where erosion patterns have destroyed the primary dune and left the homes without any protection from storms and high tide cycles.  We have been working with our legislators and the Army Corps of Engineers to push for the dredging of both the Piscataqua River in NH and the Merrimack River and I am so pleased to learn that both of these projects have been funded. Dredge spoils will help Newburyport, Salisbury and Newbury by direct sand placement or offshore placement to feed into the littoral system.  Additionally, the Merrimack River is a major waterway for the region and the currents result in significant silt deposits and new sandbars making passage for boaters dangerous.  My sincerest gratitude to the many who have advocated for the dredging and especially to Senator Bruce Tarr, Chair of the Merrimack River Beach Alliance and Congressman Seth Moulton.”
In early January, Rep. Moulton, along with Senators Warren and Markey, wrote a letter to OMB Director Russell Vought and Army for Civil Works Assistant Secretary R.D. James, asking that the project be included in the Army Corps annual budget. The trio cited the harbor’s significance to the local economy as it has been used by commercial and recreational fishermen for generations. The channel is also home to the United States Coast Guard (USCG) Station Merrimack.
The project is termed an "operations and maintenance project" as the harbor is a federal channel and falls under the Army Corps' jurisdiction for maintenance.
Last dredged in October in 2010, the harbor has accumulated enough sand to prevent lifeboats from USCG Station Merrimack from crossing at low tide. Such obstacles delay lifesaving missions and present a hazard to public safety.
From an economic standpoint, the overaccumulation of sediment inhibits the operations of the commercial fishing fleet, charter fishing companies, and tour boat operations.
Dredging the channel will restore the ability of the Coast Guard and dependent industries to resume regular activities. 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.
This is the latest in a series of dredging wins. In November of 2019, in conjunction with state and local officials, Rep. Moulton successfully attained funding for the Annisquam River Dredging project, which, at $6 million, was the largest single line item in the Army Corps budget that year.