The Saco Jetty, as seen Friday morning. LIZ GOTTHELF/Journal Tribune

The Saco Jetty, as seen Friday morning. LIZ GOTTHELF/Journal Tribune

SACO — The cost for a proposed project to offset erosion caused by the Saco River Jetty has risen, and the federal government is asking the city to pay a $20 million for its share in a long-term beach replenishment plan to move the plan move forward.

The Saco Jetty, which extends into Saco Bay 7,000 feet from the Saco River, was built by the Army Corps of Engineers in the late 1800s to provide a smoother shipping channel in the Saco River. The jetty has been blamed for disrupting the natural flow of sand and causing the coastal erosion.

Over the years, erosion has destroyed homes along the seaside community of Camp Ellis and shrunk the beach. Discussions on how to mitigate erosion have been discussed for decades.

In 2007, Congress allocated $26.9 million for a solution to offset erosion to the jetty and some were hopeful a solution would soon follow, but the money has yet to be appropriated.

The Army Corps of Engineers has studied the area and has proposed a project that would entail building a 750-foot perpendicular spur off the jetty, replenishing the beach with sand when the project is completed and then providing replenishment four more times over the 50 years after completion.

City officials and representatives from the offices of U.S. Senators Angus King and Susan Collins and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree met with representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers  on Thursday afternoon regarding the proposed project and gave an overview at a public meeting that evening.

According to City Administrator Kevin Sutherland, one necessary step in the process was recently accomplished. A feasibility report completed last year has finally been sent to the Army Corps headquarters.

This was good news to those at the meeting, though other news brought concern. The price of the project has increased from $27 million to $67 million. The cost for design and installation of the project is estimated to cost $27 million, which is covered by the federal government.

However, four additional beach nourishments in the 50 years after the project is completed is estimated to cost an additional $40 million, half of which is expected to be paid by the federal government, leaving the city responsible for $20 million.

Sutherland suggested some ideas the city could consider should the federal government not be pursuaded to cover the entire $67 million.

Sutherland said the city could create a special district in the Camp Ellis area, charging homeowners an extra fee that would go toward a beach replenishment plan.

The city could also pursue a partnership with the state to see if it would fund part of it or the city could choose to forgo the four additional beach nourishments, said Sutherland.

Mayor Ron Michaud said the city, the federal and the state governments all needed to partner to create a project to offset erosion by the jetty, noting the river was a state asset.

“It’s not our river, it’s a state river,” he said.

Sutherland urged residents to contact their state and local representatives and said city staff would be preparing a draft of a letter residents could send to government officials.

Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 325 or [email protected]


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