NEWBURY-- What Mother Nature has taken away, the US Army Corps of Engineers has given back.
In a massive $3 million project about three years in the works, the corps has dredged about 125,000 cubic yards of sand from the Newburyport Harbor and placed it on the nearby eroded Plum Island Beach, just in time to strengthen the vital shoreline against a storm that is expected tonight and predicted to last into morning.
Today, as tractors drove piles of sand and the project was declared complete, Plum Island residents and people from surrounding towns stood atop mounds of freshly-laid land. Some of the visitors gazed in amazement. Others looked out over the expanse with binoculars. Several took pictures.
Lifelong Plum Island resident Alison Tingley, 21, stood on the beach and said, "It's progress, instead of just letting the beach die out, but I'm not sure how long it's going to last, because the ocean keeps taking sand away. I think it's kind of a temporary fix for now."
In two to three years, according to Mark L. Habel of the Corps of Engineers, the stretch of beach that runs parallel to Northern Boulevard will probably look like it did before crews started pumping in the sand last month, with only a thin strip between the ocean and homes.
The project should not be threatened by rain in the next few days, when forecasters expect one to three inches of rainfall, with heavier amounts across Worcester County. Neal Strauss, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said the heaviest rainfall was expected from tonight through midday tomorrow, with windswept rains expected to taper off to showers in the afternoon.
Saturday will be a transition day with mostly cloudy skies and showers in the morning, becoming partly sunny in the afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.
Winds are expected to be strong, with northwest winds possibly gusting up to 45 miles per hour.
Sunday is expected to be mostly sunny, with highs in the lower 60s and just the slight chance of a late-day shower near the New Hampshire border.
Globe Correspondent Vivian Ho contributed to this report.
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