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Erosion Prompts State Of Emergency Declaration On Plum Island

This article is more than 10 years old.
(Courtesy MassDEP)
(Courtesy MassDEP)

Municipal leaders have declared a state of emergency on Plum Island, due to eroding sand dunes that are threatening million-dollar homes.

According to the Newburyport Daily News, the main concern surrounds four homes on Annapolis Way that sit on the edge of an eroding dune. After hearing complaints from residents, as well as town Building Commissioner Sam Joslin, selectmen unanimously agreed to declare the state of emergency. The Daily News reports that:

[The homes] lost up to 10 feet of protective dune in a June nor’easter that ravaged the coast. The road has become a familiar spot for erosion problems - last year a home on the street was condemned and torn down when erosion bit into its foundation and threatened to topple it onto the beach.

Under the state of emergency, homeowners could take action at their own expense. But environmental officials have asked residents not to, saying that sand scraping — bulldozing sand up to the dune from the beach for support — could cause more problems in the future.

Krista Selmi, of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Affairs, says the state is looking for both a short- and long-term solution.

"The state is not going to turn its back on anyone in an emergency situation," Selmi said. "We're not abandoning them and we want to work with them."

Some residents, however, are lobbying Gov. Deval Patrick for regulatory approval to begin bulldozing sand.

"We're reaching out to the governor, he's the main man, he's the boss. He certainly has the authority to grant the regulatory relief that we need," homeowner Bob Connors told WCVB.

Restoring Plum Island beaches as been an ongoing effort. The Army Corps of Engineers will begin a jetty repair project in the fall which, according to Selmi, the state is not paying for.

The state did however help pay for a project that pumped 125,000 cubic yards of sand from a nearby river onto Plum Island, Selmi said.

"We are very engaged with all three communities — Newbury, Newburyport and Salisbury — as well as with legislators, to come up with long-term solutions to maintain the beach systems in a safe way," Selmi wrote in an email to WBUR.

This program aired on July 13, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.


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