David Plavin, vice president of Save Our Shore Saco Bay, cleans up the damage from Saturday’s storm at his house in Saco’s Camp Ellis area on Monday. Sofia Aldinio/Press Herald

SACO — The city of Saco has officially signed an agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers that will see the Corps construct a spur jetty at Camp Ellis. The project is a long sought measure to prevent further erosion and afford greater protection to the coastal community that was heavily battered by two storms in early January.

Residents are happy that a deal has been finalized, but some say they’re disappointed it took so long. Meanwhile, in addition to the Army Corps project the city is now prioritizing solutions that will help protect the neighborhood.

Vice President of Save Our Shores (SOS) Saco Bay David Plavin expressed tempered optimism about the agreement, calling it a “huge milestone” – but he said he’ll “feel a lot better when (the Army Corps) is down here doing something.”

According to Ward 4 City Councilor Michael Burman, who represents Camp Ellis, the Army Corps has said that the construction of the spur jetty will likely start three years from now.

The signing ceremony on Jan. 30 inaugurates a Project Partnership Agreement approved by Saco City Council on Nov. 27. Under the agreement, the Army Corps will construct a 750-foot long spur jetty attached to a pre-existing jetty that Army Corps originally built in the 19th century.

On Jan. 30, Colonel Justin R. Pabis of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Saco Mayor Jodi MacPhail signed an agreement to begin a shoreline erosion mitigation project at Camp Ellis. Courtesy photo/City of Saco

The project is set to cost $45 million, according to a press release from the City of Saco.


The long-standing jetty at Camp Ellis has been blamed with increasing the corrosive power of the waves, hastening erosion of the shore. Dozens of homes have been lost at Camp Ellis due to shoreline erosion over the years.

The Army Corps will also replenish the beach with an estimated 300,000 cubic yards of sand as part of the deal.

SOS Saco Bay has long fought for a solution to the erosion at Camp Ellis. Plavin  lives right at the edge of Camp Ellis and he lost a patio and hot water heater in the two storms battering the coast last month, the first of which took place on Jan. 10 and the second of which took place on Jan. 13.

The jetty’s impacts are compounded by increasingly frequent extreme weather. That damage sustained during the January storms prompted the governor to ask the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to investigate whether Maine is eligible for federal help to recover from them. The recent storms come on the heels of another December storm that the federal government has already declared a “major disaster declaration,” a status that unlocks federal assistance.

Burman said he could not give a ballpark figure of the amount of private property damage to Camp Ellis, but called it “catastrophic.”

Camp Ellis resident Joe Kehoe, who purchased a house on Main Avenue four years ago, is one of those residents who sustained significant damage.


The foundation of his property was “crushed,” his porch and roof are in disrepair, and a seawall that surrounds his property collapsed, he said. He does not have insurance coverage for the seawall and he’s waiting to see if he’s able to get individual assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“If we have another storm like that, I don’t think my house would survive,” Kehoe said. His property, which he originally purchased for $785,000, would likely be sold at a loss if he did want to sell it, he said. “It’s definitely decreased the property value. Without the Army Corps of Engineers we’re at a big loss.”

He said he’s angry that the Army Corps deal wasn’t finalized earlier. “It’s not anything immediate either, it’s a year or two down the road,” Kehoe said of the timeline for construction.

According to Kehoe, other members of the community feel the same way he does: they are too committed to Camp Ellis to leave and are willing to rebuild for the foreseeable future.

But rebuilding is no small feat. “Living in fear and having to constantly rebuild, it’s exhausting and scary,” said Ward 4 Councilor Michael Burman.

The back deck of a Bay Avenue house in Camp Ellis was ruined by January’s two powerful storms. Eloise Goldsmith photo

“I think there is some frustration with the Army Corps that the project has taken so long (as well as) relief that we’re finally seeing some activity. (But) I think there’s a growing awareness that we need immediate measures,” he told the Biddeford Courier on Feb. 1.


Burman said that he’s certain that the presence of additional sand at Camp Ellis would have prevented some of the damage from the two recent storms. “The spur jetty is not going to solve sea level rise … but it should allow us to hold some sand at the beach for longer, and that sand provides some protection against incoming wave energy and storms.”

Burman said the City Council is hosting a workshop on short term steps to protect Camp Ellis on March 11. Saco’s Shoreline Commission, a municipal committee, is also expanding its mandate beyond pushing for the Army Corps project and will start investigating short-term and long-term solutions, he said.

The city also plans to rely on the York County dredge — a machine that can dig up sediment from the bottom of bodies of water and deposit it elsewhere — to help replenish the beach. York County acquired the dredge in 2023 thanks to $1.54 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds. SOS Saco Bay was one of the groups that pushed for the acquisition of the dredge.

“I don’t think anybody believes that the Army Corps project is going to be the entire solution or the end of the conversation,” Burman said.

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