Waves crash over a Camp Ellis street during high tide in March 2018.. Liz Gotthelf, Journal Tribune file photo

SACO — A letter to SOS Saco Bay from Assistant Secretary of the Army R. D. James is being hailed as good news by the president of the nonprofit organization that advocates for a solution to erosion problems at Camp Ellis in Saco and other locations along the shoreline.

SOS Saco Bay President Kevin Roche said James’s letter outlining the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers willingness to “work with the city to find a path forward” on a plan to reduce erosion at Camp Ellis is ” the biggest news since SOS was reformed last summer.”

James wrote to SOS in June in response to their letter to him that asked  for an update of the conversation the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had with municipal and congressional leaders in the spring.

James outlined the steps taken to date, and the path ahead:

“At the request of the City of Saco, the USACE conducted a series of studies for this proposed project at a federal cost of more than $3.5 million,” James wrote. ” A draft final report recommending a project that would reduce erosion at Camp Ellis was provided to the city in August 2018.”

The so-called Plan 6 involves construction of a stone spur jetty and beach fill north of the jetty.

“The project recommendation was consistent with the requirements of Section 111 and the increased authorized Federal cost limit of $26.9 million set by Congress for this project in WRDA 2007,” James wrote. “The city declined to support that recommendation. After further discussions, a final report was prepared in April 2019. The city again declined to accept the recommendation. Accordingly, the USACE informed the city it had terminated further study efforts in January 2020. Congress has not appropriated any funds for construction of this project.”

The city had declined the recommendation based on issues surrounding future inspections, maintenance and repair of the stone spur jetty and reinforcement of adjacent sections of the main north jetty.

With a new city administration, the spring session with congressional leaders and New England District of the Army Corps staff led to the potential for future engagement, James noted.

“The City has indicated that it might reconsider its decision not to support the recommended project,” James wrote. “At the city’s request, the (District Army Corps) provided examples of USACE Project Partnership Agreements; however, given the unique nature of this project, a specific agreement would need to be drafted for Saco. If the city does decide to change its position on sponsoring the recommended plan, the USACE is willing to work with the city to find a path forward.”

Roche said he hopes the city will be forthcoming with a letter of support and added the SOS membership is encouraged by recent support.

“Beginning in late February of this year, coastal neighborhoods have received outstanding support from municipal leaders in Biddeford, Saco, Old Orchard Beach and Scarborough, from state legislators representing those communities, and from the local field representatives of Maine’s U.S. Congressional delegation,” Roche said. “Bottom line is that we have never been closer to an agreement with the Army Corps.”

Saco City Administrator Bryan Kaenrath said the City Council is poised to consider the matter.

“The City Council is currently tentatively scheduled to take up this issue in September,” said Kaenrath. “The first step would be to provide the USACOE a letter of support from the City for the Plan 6 project and then work to put together a project agreement.”

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: