WESTERLY — The contract for the $3.1 million Misquamicut State Beach replenishment project has been signed, and work can now begin as soon as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gives the final go-ahead.
Foremost on everyone’s mind is how the project will affect the beach at a time of year when people are eager to enjoy it. The contractor, MZM Construction of Newark, N.J., has promised that the work, scheduled to start this month, will be completed by June 1 in time for the summer season, and that it will not interfere with Misquamicut Springfest May 9-11.
Representatives from the Army Corps, MZM Construction, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, and the Town of Westerly sat at a conference table in the council chambers at the Westerly Town Hall on Thursday morning and went over the 31-page contract during a pre-construction meeting that lasted about an hour and a half. After signing the agreement, they then headed to the beach for a look at the site.
The bulk of the discussion, most of it focused on the logistics and administration of the project, took place between Army Corps engineer and Project Manager Christopher J. Turek and MZM Senior Program Manager Edward Moore. Turek asked Moore if he was confident his company could complete the job by the June 1 deadline. The penalty for not finishing on time is $2,385 per day.
“If this is right, this gives you 61 calendar days to finish the job,” Turek said, looking at the contract. “You can do it?”
“Yes,” Moore replied.
The project, involving the addition of 84,000 cubic yards of sand to the beach to restore it to its 1960 profile, has been planned to take place in stages to minimize disruptions. Rhode Island Sand and Spring of Charlestown will deliver the sand, using two of its own trucks and 14 additional trucks from Gallagher Equipment Inc. of Smithfield. Sections of the beach and parking lot will be closed as the restoration progresses from west to east. Work at the western end of the beach will be completed first, so the area can be open in time for Springfest.
The work plan calls for the loaded trucks, each carrying up to 38 cubic yards of sand, to travel down Route 2 in Charlestown to Route 1, to Airport Road, then to Winnapaug Road and, finally, to Atlantic Avenue. Work will take place weekdays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. in one area at a time, although that could change.
“Originally, we were looking at one area, but because of the short time duration, we may be working in two different areas at the same time so we get the job done,” Moore said.
Westerly Town Engineer Paul LeBlanc warned that flooding on Winnapaug Road could result in delays.
“If we do get into a situation where we have an overwash condition or a tidal surge condition, I will act on the town’s best interests and possibly shut that route down. There is no alternate route,” he said.
LeBlanc also noted that the work will be taking place just as more people begin going to the beach.
“That’ll be getting into a busy period, safety concerns with the general public. To be honest, after Superstorm Sandy, it was a nightmare … So really pay attention to safety fencing,” he told Moore. “The other concern is public access along the shoreline. As the weather gets better, you’ll have the public wanting to traverse your work zone, which means bringing them back out to the parking area.”
Moore said the work areas would be well-marked and fenced off.
“Obviously, we don’t want any people in the work area,” he said. “We’re going to put up our safety fence, and in areas we’re working we’re going to get signage up, so it’ll be visible.”
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Project Manager Chris Hatfield said until the work is completed, people coming to Misquamicut should not be surprised to find parts of the beach and parking lot closed.
“The beach will be fenced off where they’re working. A lot of the parking lot will be segregated. There’s different areas that are staging areas where they can stockpile and store equipment, and those areas will be off limits. Any part of the beach that’s fenced off, people won’t be able to go on, because they’re going to be running equipment back and forth and spreading material,” he said.
Hatfield said work could take place anywhere on the beach in April, but beginning in May, it would be restricted to stages.
“They can work everywhere in April, but then starting in May, we’re kind of shutting them down from west to east, mainly driven by Springfest, so they start setting up that week and that part of the parking lot has to open up, and then as we move them down the beach, that part of the beach has to be open to the public again,” he said.
Standing in the state beach parking lot, RIDEM Regional Manager Alan Comello said he was confident that Springfest would take place as planned.
“That’s the way it’s been laid out to them. That’s what they’re supposed to do,” he said. “Have everything off this part of the parking lot for Springfest to set up, and by the time Springfest takes place, they’re supposed to be three quarters of the way down the lot on the east side.”
By Memorial Day, final work will be concentrated at the farthest eastern end of the beach, and most of the newly-restored beach will be open.