NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

March 19, 2013

Walls built to fight sea

PLUM ISLAND — Workers were hustling and backhoes were belching yesterday as men and machines labored to build enormous stone piles to shore up the dunes in front of oceanside homes here.

The introduction of heavy equipment on the beach is a departure from past approaches to protect the dunes, and rugged rock embankments and symmetrical stone walls have been created at the high tide mark from about the center groin to the south end of Fordham Way, about a two-thirds of a mile stretch of beach.

The damaged dunes have undergone a stunning transformation since the nor’easter storm 10 days ago that left dozens of homes in peril and caused six to be destroyed. Homeowners have dumped and piled stones all along beach, creating a rugged wall. Some are creating finely shaped walls; others have brought in great piles of rough stones.

There appeared to be disparate views on whether the work has the approval of the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Several homeowners said they have received permission from the state DEP or “the governor.” These individuals declined to give their names.

But a staff member of the DEP yesterday said that no permissions have been given.

“They haven’t gotten permission,” said Ed Coletta, a spokesman for DEP. “The homeowners are concerned about their properties and we aren’t going to stop work from going on.

“When the storms are over for the year, we will be coming out to review what has been done. If the structures aren’t in accord with regulations, they might have to take the walls down.”

Coletta said that homeowners would not have to pay a penalty if they have to remove the barriers that are being erected.

Members of the state Department of Environmental Protection in the past have refused explicit permission for homeowners to move sand or build “hard structures” to prevent more erosion of the dunes.

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