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$45M in federal funding secured for Camp Ellis erosion

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

Help could finally be on its way for Saco's efforts to keep the sea from destroying more waterfront properties at Camp Ellis. Sen. Susan Collins announced Wednesday that she's secured funds in a pending appropriations bill to re-engineer a problematic jetty.

Camp Ellis has lost dozens of homes to the ocean, as a 150-year old jetty sluices strong waves straight at its shores, scouring out its beaches and sending replenishing sands from the Saco River farther afield.

The city and the U.S. Army corps of engineers have struggled for more than a decade to agree on a specific remedy, while federal funding for a remedy has been budgeted for years, but never actually appropriated.

But on Wednesday a key Senate Committee unanimously approved a proposal by Senator Collins, who sits on the Appropriations Committee, to include $45 million dedicated to the effort in a pending bill that finances ongoing Corps water resource projects. Saco Mayor William Doyle said it's a huge opportunity.

"It solves a bunch of hurdles and a bunch of challenges to get us to a final realization of getting something done," Doyle said.

The funds would pay for beach replenishment and construction of a 750-foot spur angling off the existing jetty — hopefully to send wave energy away from shore.

And in a related development, Doyle said the York County Commission recently took a preliminary vote to seek an RFP for a specialized dredge boat that could remove sand wherever it's not wanted along the state's southernmost coast, and dump it where it is.

The overall Senate bill still faces a vote by the full chamber. It will then need to be reconciled with a version produced by the House, where a spokeswoman for Rep. Chellie Pingree said she will work to secure similar language there.

A Columbia University graduate, Fred began his journalism career as a print reporter in Vermont, then came to Maine Public in 2001 as its political reporter, as well as serving as a host for a variety of Maine Public Radio and Maine Public Television programs. Fred later went on to become news director for New England Public Radio in Western Massachusetts and worked as a freelancer for National Public Radio and a number of regional public radio stations, including WBUR in Boston and NHPR in New Hampshire.