Shoreline moves in on Plum Islanders
The Boston Globe - March 4, 2010
By Brian R.Ballou / GLOBE STAFF
DAVID L. RYAN / GLOBE STAFF
Sharon Binelli braved the wind and cold yesterday on Plum Island, near new
erosion along Northern Boulevard.
NEWBURY- Violent waves are again pounding Plum Island's eroding shoreline,
bringing the Atlantic Ocean closer to doorsteps.
At least 34 houses are threatened by accelerated erosion, with as many as
eight in imminent danger. The erosion is caused in part by recent storms and
high northeast winds, but residents and some town and state officials say a
deteriorating jetty might also be to blame.
In the past two weeks, as two strong storms passed through the area, as much
as 25 feet of dune has been lost in front of several houses along Southern
Boulevard, where waves are crashing just feet from residences.
"Trying to stop the Atlantic Ocean is a challenge," said Eric Woorall, deputy
regional director of the Department of Environmental Protection.
Some residents have stockpiled sand next to their beachfront
properties for emergency replenishment. Along the start of Northern
Boulevard, about 500 feet of car-size sandbags, put in place 16 months
ago to fight expected erosion in the winter of 2008-09, rest perilously
atop a thinning dune that yesterday was repeatedly pummeled by
10-foot-high waves. On the other side of that dune are five houses.
"We had 95 feet of dune in front of us when we bought the house three years
ago, and now we have only about 20 feet," said Donita Rardin. "Most of it was
taken during the storm on Patriots Day in 2007, as we were purchasing the house.
The erosion here has been really unexpected and exceptional," said Rardin, who
recently took down fencing in front of her house because of. the erosion.
The emergency stockpiles of sand are the last option until a major project
due to start this fall. The US Army Corps of Engineers plans to dredge the
Merrimack River and transfer the sand to the eroded areas.
The dredging would deposit roughly 160,000 cubic yards of sand from the
river, at a cost of approximately $3 million. About 120,000 cubic yards will go
to rebuild dunes on Plum Island Beach, which extends south of the river channel,
and about 40,000 cubic yards will be deposited on Salisbury Beach, just north of
it. After the sand is placed, grass will be planted next fall to protect the
area from erosion.
The funding will come from the US Army Corps of Engineers and the state
Department of Con-servation and Recreation. The bidding will start March 15,
and the project is expected to start Sept. 1 and last about two months, said Tim
Dugan, spokesman for the corps of engineers. A report by the corps released in
January 2009 estimates that 13.3 feet of beach on Plum Island is vanishing each
Woorall said the beach re-nourishment, adding sand and then planting grass,
can help, stave off the erosion for years, but it will not last. "There needs to
be a comprehensive focus on what is causing this."
Bob Connors, director of the Plum Island Foundation, a nonprofit made up of
residents who oversee coastal issues on the island, said a jetty extending 3,000
feet from the mouth of the Merri-mack River to the ocean has compromised the
shoreline, casting sand from the river far out to sea. "We're talking about up
to 150,000 cubic yards of sand that the jetty pushes out. If no jetty were
there, the sediment settles at the mouth of the river and works up the
D L. RYAN/GLOBE STAFF
Peter Albrecht of Newbury walked along the beach on Plum Island near Northern
and Southern boulevards yesterday. At least 34 houses on Plum Island are
threatened by accelerated erosion, caused in part by recent storms and high
northeast winds. But residents and some town and state officials say a
deteriorating jetty might also be to blame for the loss of sand along the beach.