A large amount of wood has been deposited at Bayview Beach in Saco along with sand nourishment from the mouth of the Saco River. LIZ GOTTHELF/Journal Tribune

SACO — People are flocking to the beach in Saco to check out an unusually high amount of driftwood, an unexpected byproduct from a sand replenishment effort.

The Army Corps of Engineers embarked on the second phase of a dredging project in the Saco River in January. Through the project, sand from the mouth of the river has transported to the Saco shoreline, an area vulnerable to erosion.

Tim Dugan, spokesman for the Army Corps New England said the dredge hit pockets of woody material more extensive than what was shown in prior sampling, leaving an unexpected amount of woody material on the beach.

Dugan said the Corps is working with federal and state resources as well as the city of Saco and other local resources to remove the debris and transport it to Ecomaine in Portland. Ecomaine will use the debris for power generation in its waste to energy facility, said Dugan.

“It was not an anticipated part of the project,” said Saco Public Works Director Patrick Fox. Fox said now that the Army Corps project manager has received authorization for a remove the wood and other debris on the beach associated with the dredging, the Army Corps is working to finalize a contract and necessary environmental components, including Inland Fish and Wildlife coordination and plover monitoring.

The cleanup is expected to begin in the next week or two, Fox said, and the city has stressed to Army Corps officials that it needs to be completed by May 1, to ensure the beach is clear of the dredging related debris when the weather is warmer and people start gravitating to the seashore.

There is no concern of contamination related to the debris, he said.

This is good news to the many crafters and beachcombers who have been down at the beach collecting pieces of wood.

Rita Shiman said her husband came home from the beach with “the most beautiful piece of driftwood” and she went to Bayview Beach Wednesday morning to see for herself the abundance of driftwood on the beach.

“It just goes on all the way down,” she said, pointing to the driftwood that lined the whole stretch of Bayview Beach.

Michelle Murphy of Biddeford decided to go down to Bayview Beach on Wednesday after friend, Tink Fraschetti, owner of the Mad in Maine, a naturalist boutique in Saco, told her about the amount of driftwood on the beach.

“I’ve never seen such an abundance,” said Murphy.

The two women were collecting wood pieces and planned to use the material to make jewelry and other craft projects.

Dredging of the mouth of the Saco River is expected to be completed by March 31 and dredging near the city centers of Saco and Biddeford is scheduled to be completed by April 10.

Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be reached at 780-9015 or by email at [email protected].

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