Erosion Concerns on Plum Island as Storm Takes a Toll - NECN

Erosion Concerns on Plum Island as Storm Takes a Toll



    (NECN: Lauren Collins, Plum Island) - The storm has been battering the New England coast with pounding surf.

    Beach erosion is always a concern for people living on Plum Island. This storm is taking a toll.

    When Bill Barrett woke up Tuesday morning, "it was really howling."  The Newbury, Massachusetts resident walked along the beach of Plum Island as waves pounded the shore.  Big waves.

    "They were breaking on to each other," says Miesje Griffiths, who guesses the waves were cresting at about 20 feet.   "The waves were coming in and they were creating massive explosions. "

    Each pound of Tuesday's hungry surf is a reminder of the constant threat Plum Island's beach and miles of battered homes are under.

    Barrett recalls, "three years ago at that brown house  I had to walk at least two hundred feet to get to the end of the dune before you get down to the water  and now you walk out their door and you look down on the water. "

    The towns of Newbury and Newburyport have literally raced against the tides as multiple unforgiving nor'easters claim beach frontage.  Two Thanksgivings ago, one house was torn down.  Several others have since been condemned and in the last month Newburyport town officials issued five emergency  certifications for houses closest to the edge.

     "The residents were allowed to do certain work without going through the normal permitting process to try and shore up the dunes to protect their homes ," explains Newburyport Conservation Agent Mary Reilly.

    But each fix only proves temporary.  As quickly as local, state, and federal crews fill in the beach, a storm comes and washes much of the work away.

    Newbury Conservation Agent Doug Packer admits "it's disappointing to see the material come off the beach.  It's also unrealistic to think that just by putting material on the beach you're going to correct an erosional pattern."

    State Senator Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) says the long term solution is to repair the jetties at the mouth of the Merrimack River, "so that we can stabilize the littoral system and make sure  sand stays on the beach as it drifts up and down the coast.  That's going to take three or four years."

    it's what residents have long called for but worry is too far off as they lay awake at night and listen to the sea creep ever closer.

    Kevin Armour says "you don' t really know what to expect every time you're out here.  It's kind of just always a different thing."

    Barrett agrees, "Something different is going on.   It's definitely taking a different toll on the beach than it always has."