City looks to next PI plan after removing shredded bags

Dave Rogers, The Daily News of Newburyport, Mass.
·2 min read

May 4—PLUM ISLAND — For three days last week, a work crew using rented equipment removed the shredded remains of about 500 "Super Sack" sandbags that were placed around Reservation Terrace last fall and in February to help protect properties from high tides and storm-tossed waves.

"I'm very happy the bags were removed. They were disintegrating by the day," Reservation Terrace resident Lela Wright said.

On Jan. 31 and into February, at least six homes sustained significant damage and an additional 10 were at risk for damage following a nor'easter that battered the barrier island. Damage to Reservation Terrace compromised the water and sewer system, affecting several residences as well, according to the city.

Days later, with assistance from the state Department of Transportation, about 150 Super Sacks, heavy-duty bags of sand, were lined up along the coastline.

In October, the city placed between 300 and 350 Super Sacks, each containing up to 700 pounds of sand. It was hoped the bags would provide better protection for Reservation Terrace residents than previous dune replenishment efforts.

"The Super Sacks were not able to hold back the tides and were undermined," Mayor Donna Holaday said in an email Tuesday. "We spent many, many hours trying to find a solution for short-term protection working with state agencies and came up with the Super Sacks,"

Holaday said the city has begun another plan to help protect Plum Island properties from waves and storm surge.

"We have been working on another option involving wood pilings and coir bags — more environmentally friendly material — that is currently under MEPA (Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act) review and also through our Conservation Commission," Holaday wrote.

The Conservation Commission was expected to discuss coir bags as its meeting Tuesday night.

"We anticipate the review from the state to be completed in the next several weeks," the mayor said.

What Holaday defined as "short-term protection" would be in place until the Merrimack River dredging project occurs. That would involve placing over 260,000 cubic yards of sand in the Reservation Terrace area, she wrote.

Wright said while she appreciated the city's efforts to protect her property and that of other landowners, she believed the sand-filled sacks did more harm than good.

"I knew the bags were really, really becoming a hazard," Wright said, since they broke apart and were shredded.

Holaday disagreed with that assessment.

"I am not sure I agree that they did more harm than good as I think the damage to the area could have been much worse," Holaday said in her email.

Daily News reporter Heather Alterisio contributed to this report.

Dave Rogers is a staff writer with The Daily News of Newburyport. Email him at: drogers@newburyportnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.