NEWBURYPORT — The city plans to apply for a $3 million grant through the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Travel Tourism and Outdoor Recreation program to cover nearly half of the work needed to repair the central waterfront bulkhead .
The bureau has allocated $750 million from funding it received under the American Rescue Plan Act to its travel tourism and outdoor recreation program.
In a presentation to City Council on Monday night, the city’s senior project manager, Geordie Vining, said: ‘The bulkhead is the infrastructure that establishes the edge between the Merrimack River and the boardwalk, Market Landing Park and the central waterfront.”
While infrastructure is essential to the city, it’s not necessarily something most people are aware of, he explained.
“If abandoned, theoretically, the Merrimack River would quickly erode this whole section of the central waterfront,” Vining said, referring to the city’s beloved boardwalk and park.
In December, GEI Consultants provided a design cost estimate for 75% of the project at approximately $6 million with a contingency.
The project would repair and replace the 45-year-old steel bulkhead and piles, which have deteriorated significantly over the years.
An inspection last summer revealed that the central bay bulkhead anchor bolts, which hold the sheet piles together, have started to corrode and break in recent years, for example.
The Harbor Master has been monitoring this problem every three months since so that interim repairs can be carried out, if necessary.
Vining also showed photos of the old steel mooring piles, which corroded and broke underwater. These piles anchor seasonal floats for visiting boaters.
“The repairs mainly consist of driving new fiber reinforced polymer (FRP) sheet piles in front of the old system and filling between them and the old sheet piles with concrete, which will encapsulate the old steel and stop its corrosion,” said writes Vining in his memorandum to the board.
The city also plans to raise the concrete cap of the bulkhead about 18 inches, raising it to a height of 10 feet to accommodate sea level rise.
In 2014, the city secured funding and completed Phase 1 of the Bulkhead Repair Project, repairing the fish pier on the east side of the waterfront and the transportation docks on the west side, or the sections then considered to be in the worst condition. .
Phase 2 of the project has long been known to be a high priority for the city, but has been postponed for the past eight years due to other capital needs.
If the city is awarded the grant through the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Tourism and Outdoor Recreation program, officials must also provide documentation of an authorization and commitment from 20% consideration.
An order, presented to council on Monday and co-sponsored by Ward 2 Councilor Jennie Donahue and Ward 1 Councilor Sharif Zeid, seeks to appropriate $600,000 for the project to serve as a local contribution if the city is awarded the grant. .
The council referred the order to the Committee on Budget and Finance and the Committee of the Whole for further discussion.
General Counsel Afroz Khan asked about the long-term vision of the bulkhead. Vining said marine engineers estimate that once the bulkhead is repaired and stabilized, it could last around 50 years.
Ward 6 Councilor Byron Lane questioned why the city waited so long to move forward with this project.
“This project has been postponed solely due to concerns about lack of funding, given all of the other priorities of the city and again, lack of ability to secure more funding outside of the city,” said Planning Director Andy Port explaining how other projects were prioritized. based on urgency.
“It’s hard to fund all the projects at once, so some of these things, unfortunately, get postponed, and this was one of them,” he said.
Lane also asked if combined sewer overflows had an impact on bulkhead corrosion.
Vining noted that corrosion studies have been done over the years, but CSOs don’t seem to be a factor.
“A common answer is electrolysis in water, electrical current in water from boats and other sources,” he said. “It’s a bit hard to say, but in general these systems are vulnerable when they’re made of steel and exposed to oxygen.
“They’re just vulnerable to corrosion and they can’t last more than a few decades, which is one of the reasons we’re looking at using different materials to shore up the whole system,” he continued. .
The city is also considering applying for additional grants to support this project.
To view a recording of the presentation or access project-related documents from Monday’s council package, visit www.cityofnewburyport.com/city-council/events/306916.
Staff reporter Heather Alterisio can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 978-961-3149. Follow her on Twitter @HeathAlt.