SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

March 30, 2008

Friction growing over sand Plum Island citizens group letter disputes deal on dredge deposits

PLUM ISLAND — A lawyer representing a group of Plum Island residents has warned state and local officials that they could be breaking the law if they attempt to implement an agreement that would allow dredged sand to be deposited off Salisbury Beach.

Attorney Robert Brennan of Boston wrote that a "citizens group" he represents is entitled to file suit to stop violations "that will occur at such time as any party seeks to divert dredge spoils to any site other than the near-shore placement site off of Plum Island."

The letter, sent to the governing bodies of Salisbury, Newbury and Newburyport, and an assortment of state and federal officials involved with the project, appears to dispute an agreement reached earlier this year by Newbury, Newburyport and Salisbury that would allow sand from the next dredging of the Merrimack River channel to be deposited near Plum Island, but would also allow Salisbury Beach to receive the sand from dredging after that.

While it stops short of an actual lawsuit, the letter seeks "to enjoin disposal of dredged sand from the Newburyport Harbor Entrance Channel at ... a 40-acre near-shore placement site off of North Salisbury Beach."

Brennan and a spokesman for the Plum Island group, Robert Connors of Annapolis Way, said the letter is not meant to deprive Salisbury Beach of sand that helps replenish its shoreline, but is intended to promote further study of the problem by the state Department of Environmental Protection and help come up with a comprehensive solution.

"What we really want is for DEP to do a study," Brennan said. "(The letter's) intention is misunderstood. Decisions have been made without any studies. It's not hostile to or opposed to a regional plan."

"This seems like a reasonable compromise between the parties to allow the dredging to go forward and to provide time for all the parties to get together and work out a cohesive regional sand management agreement prior to dredging number two," Connors said.

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