Credit: Eagle Tribune
Jim Vaiknoras/Staff Photo

Beachfront homeowners in the Plum Island community north of Boston, Mass., are hanging tough in their fight to stop erosion from destroying their homes. But their bank-reinforcement, armoring, and beach reconstruction efforts may come to nothing in the end, as the relentless ocean keeps up its assault. Meanwhile, state authorities have advised the community that the grudging permission granted to continue their desperate measures may be revoked if the effort seems to be failing or creating unwanted side effects.

Early in April, property owners pressured the state Department of Environmental Protection to let them dredge sand from low-tide ocean bottom and put it onto dunes protecting the bluff where their endangered homes sit. The Newburyport Current reported that story here ("Plum Island residents hoping to 'mine' sand and save their homes," by Kristina Lindborg).

A week later, the Newburyport Daily News reported, the commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Kenneth Kimmell, gave the go-ahead — sort of ("State allows 'sand mining' on Plum Island beach," by Dyke Hendrickson). Wrote Kimmell to Marc Sarkady, president of the Plum Island Foundation: "The department will not oppose implementation of this project on a one-time basis, subject to requirements outlined in your proposal and conditions of local wetlands emergency certification."

That doesn't mean the DEP won't oppose the project later, however — or even demand that the work be undone. "We continue to be concerned that conducting this type of activity could have negative impacts and be unsustainable," Kimmell wrote. And in a phone interview with the Daily News, he said, "We are willing to be flexible, but we want town officials and residents to know this is short-term, and they have got to begin working on long-term solutions right away."

The sand-mining method isn't the only approach Plum Island townsfolk are trying. Contractors are trucking in sand and using it as a soft blanket over a hard armoring project, reports the Eagle-Tribune ("On Plum Island, beachfront is transformed -- again," by Dyke Hendrickson).

"In mid to late March, the beachfront along Annapolis Way and Fordham Way, where storm-surge erosion had destroyed homes and ripped away sand dunes, looked like a rock quarry," the paper reports. "Thousands of rocks of all sizes had been dumped along the edge of the dune, creating a rugged "armor" that is intended to prevent more erosion."

"Now, the high-tide mark appears to have dunes again, and few of the thousands of boulders are visible," the story continues. Compatible sand from other areas now covers the big bank of rip-rap. Marc Sarkady, who heads the Plum Island Foundation, said, "There seems to have been a mix of beach and (other sand). It looks like there are dunes there again."