A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project to repair the jetties and wing walls at the mouth of the Kennebunk River has been underway since mid-August and is set to wind down in January, according to project engineer Coral Siligato.  Tammy Wells photo

KENNEBUNKPORT – A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers initiative to repair the jetties and wing walls at the mouth of the Kennebunk River is expected to wind down in January, according to the project manager.

The work being done by Mohawk Northeast Inc. of Plantsville, Connecticut, began in mid-August, said project manager Coral Siligato in a recent telephone interview. The company placed a successful bid of $1.74 million for the work.

According to the the Army Corps, the project involves repairs to the 600-foot stone jetty on the eastern side of the inlet and a 240-foot wing wall connecting the jetty with the shore adjacent to Colony Beach. Repairs are also scheduled for the 290-foot jetty on the western side of the channel with a 270-foot stone wing wall connecting with the shore in Kennebunk, adjacent to Gooch’s Beach.

The jetties and wing walls sustained damage during Hurricane Sandy in October 2012 and nor’easter storms in March 2018.

The work was initially expected to start earlier in the summer, a prospect that concerned selectmen in Kennebunkport, who in a November meeting noted the difficult, pandemic summer of 2020 that impacted local businesses. As it turned out, however, the project did not get underway until a couple of weeks before Labor Day.

“The purpose of the work is to perform repairs to the east and west jetties and wing walls at the entrance to the Kennebunk River in Kennebunk and Kennebunkport,” a notice of the project signed by John A. Atilano II, colonel of the Corps of Engineers said. The notice went on to say the work will target loss of armor stone along both jetties, undermining of the east wing wall, and unbalanced settlement of the west wing wall. The notice stated that the damage has resulted in decreased functionality of the structures and an overall loss of protection of the navigation channels.

The project consists of disassembling the entire 240-foot length of the fitted stone wing wall and rebuilding it in a more stable configuration using the existing stones with grouting and pinning applied where needed, according to the Army Corps. Following construction, the Colony Beach parking lot side of the wall, currently used as a staging area, will be backfilled, compacted, and leveled to return the site to previous conditions.

At the base of the northern side of the wall, about 1,200 square feet of stone toe protection will be added to the bottom of the length of the wall. Repairs of the west wing wall will consist of disassembling the settled and failed portion of the wall and rebuilding it in a more stable configuration using existing stones. The structure will maintain the same footprint once repairs are complete.

The seaward ends of the east and west jetties will be repaired from a barge on the water.

Repairs to the east jetty include demolishing the failed fitted stone structure at the nose and rebuilding it with larger armor stone in a rounded configuration. The reconfiguration will convert an estimated 3,300 square feet of sand substrate to rock, according to the corps, and will require temporary removal of the navigation aid at the end of the jetty.

The fitted stones removed from the nose are to be repurposed as a parking barrier along the top of the east wing wall. Additional repairs of the east jetty include extending armor stone protection by 45 linear feet along the eastern face of the jetty where it meets the beach. The notice stated doing so will convert about 225 square feet of sand and gravel area to stone, to protect a small area where the eroded beach has exposed the older inner stone cores. Repairs to the nose of the west jetty consist of adding new armor stone at the jetty nose where previous stones have been displaced.

Siligato said she recently visited the site and inspected the work with engineers to see what was being done and how it was being done.

“It’s moving along,” she said. “From my initial eyes, it seems to be going good.”

Improvements to navigation at the Kennebunk River began in the 1790s when the first cribwork jetties at the river mouth were constructed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, according to the Army Corps. The federal government took ownership of the jetties in 1798 and the corps has repaired and improved them over the years. In the 1960s, the west jetty was lengthened, and the navigation channels were deepened and widened to their current authorized dimensions. Repairs to the east jetty were last completed in 1982 when 1,707 tons of stone were added to the damaged sections of the structure, the notice stated. Repairs to the west jetty were completed that same year, when 1,597 tons of stone were added to the structure.

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