NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

March 26, 2013

Group focuses on climate change, coastal erosion

NEWBURYPORT — Local residents concerned about climate change and the rising of the sea held their third meeting last night, and several suggested that developing an action plan is about as complex as the ecosystem itself.

Ideas were discussed and viewpoints exchanged, but organizers said it will take more such gatherings to identify what the group should actually do.

“We’ll be meeting again,” said Ron Martino, an organizer. “There are many people here who want to prepare for future climate conditions, but we have to determine what the community wants to do, and what is actionable.”

More than three dozen gathered at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, but those present are technically not part of a formal organization. The group doesn’t yet have a name.

Yet many of those present said they have been troubled about the growing effect of seasonal storms and the erosion-generated destruction on Plum Island.

Guest speaker was Steve Miller, coordinator of the Coastal Training Program of the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in southern New Hampshire.

Miller indicated that New Hampshire is several years ahead of coastal Massachusetts in creating study groups and developing workshops.

He provided advice on what regional and national institutes might be sources of grant money to study coastal issues in Essex County.

Those who attended were from Massachusetts, however, and their concerns focused on recent storm events that resulted in the loss of six houses on the Newbury portion of Plum Island. Another two dozen structures are still considered vulnerable.

There were few municipal officials in the audience, and it was a citizen forum at which issues were raised but few solutions provided.

Bill Sargent, an author and naturalist, suggested that the community consider a cessation of construction on oceanside dunes.

“Government should encourage the community not to build,” said Sargent, an Ipswich resident who has documented erosion loss in other parts of the state.

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