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Environment and Outdoors

There are signs of slow progress on curbing erosion at Camp Ellis in Saco

Camp ELlis 1.jpg
David Plavin
A wave overtopping a home in Camp Ellis in March 2018.

Stakeholders involved in efforts to protect Camp Ellis from continued and severe beach erosion met in Saco on Monday to discuss next steps for an infrastructure solution. There are some signs of slow progress.

A 150-year-old jetty in the Saco River is blamed for amplifying wave energy and erosion that have scoured out the Camp Ellis beach and destroyed dozens of homes over several decades. Last year Saco officials asked the Army Corps of Engineers to revive negotiations over installing new infrastructure next to or near the jetty to dampen or weaken the most damaging waves.

"They feel that's coming up relatively quickly, considering how long we've been waiting for it," said Bonne Pothier, who represents Sen. Angus King. She said the Corps has told King and other members of Maine's congressional delegation that it could propose a new "Project Partnership Agreement" to the city this spring. But there are important details to be worked out, including how much money the federal government will need to spend on the project.

"They're going to exceed what the authorization was back in 2007. So there is work behind the scenes going on," Pothier said.

This month, local residents submitted a proposal to the state for installation of a "wave attenuation" system they believe could be more effective than a Corps plan to add a spur to the jetty. Corps officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, the York County Commission is expected to consider a proposal to use federal recovery funds to buy a $1.8 million dredge system. Several coastal towns, including Wells, Old Orchard Beach and Biddeford have sent letters of support for that purchase.