Rockport begins stabilization of Long Beach seawall  

PAUL BILODEAU/Staff file photoRockport is beginning a $750,000 “short-term stabilization” of the Long Beach seawall on Monday.

ROCKPORT — The first phase to re-support 1,140 feet of Long Beach seawall will begin on Monday.

According to Public Works Director Joseph Parisi, K&R Construction Co. of Boxford will place 2,500 tons of stone from Johnson's Quarry up against the aging portions of the wall. The new stones will rest on top of the existing support stones buried beneath the sand.

Construction will begin around 7 a.m. on weekdays through February and March. Work hours are based around when the tide is out. Some truck traffic from Johnson's Quarry to Long Beach may occur throughout working days, Parisi said

During construction, the end of Rockport Road will be fenced off. Parking will only be permitted for those who live or do business there. Residents will still be able to access the seawall and beach. Parisi said all dogs visiting the beach must be leashed while construction is underway.

The project's second phase calls for 8,000 cubic yards of sand to poured on top of the support boulders. Parisi says the town still needs to have the necessary permits finalized, but he expects phase two will begin sometime after summer.

In total, the project is estimated to cost $1 million.

The Long Beach seawall was originally built in 1938. Nearly half of it was destroyed and rebuilt after a large storm in 1956. The two sections original wall left standing are still there today. It now protects an estimated $75 million of town-owned land, according to a study by KRT Appraisals in 2013.

"The original wall was built without footing and it doesn't go as deep as the 1956 sections," said Parisi.  

To support the wall, large boulders were stacked against its base 10 feet up. However, after decades of erosion and sand displacement, the boulders have sunk about 5 feet into the ground, Parisi said.

In January 2018, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs granted Rockport $228,000 to design a repair plan for the seawall. 

However, a particularly severe storm last March threw a wrench in the town's plans. High winds and surf caused sections of the old wall to topple forward, causing some sections of the concrete sidewalk above to cave in. With its support 5 feet below where it should be, the wall was in danger of falling. 

Unspent money from the grant was shifted to fixed the damaged portions of the wall and sidewalk.

"This past year, we've replaced 2,000 feet of sidewalk from the Gloucester line inward with a gravel path," said Parisi. "It's good because it's wider and we can easily see where the pockets of erosion and voids are behind the wall."

In October, the Long Beach Infrastructure Committee recommended the town completely replace the 3,350-foot concrete structure. The committee argued the wall, including its reconstructed sections, has aged out its usefulness and constant maintenance is no longer a viable option for the town. 

With this information, the town went back to the state to revise the scope of the grant, specifically to re-stabilize the weaker wall sections with an additional layer of support boulders. In response, a second grant was issued for $750,000.

The remaining $250,000 for the project will be matched by the town over two years, some of which was already allocated for the contract with K&R Construction Co. Registered voters will be asked to allow for further funding at Town Meeting.

Currently, according to Parisi, phase one of the project is running under budget. He hopes he'll be able to use some of those savings to complete the remaining 1,000 feet of sidewalk.

Michael Cronin may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or mcronin@gloucestertimes.com.