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March 27, 2013

Islanders plead to rebuild dunes

NEWBURY — Homeowners in vulnerable sectors of Plum Island met with state officials last night, and by evening’s end they heard Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Ken Kimmel say that he will consider their thoughts and provide answers soon.

That likely wasn’t the decisive answer that most wanted to hear, but it did coincide with a recurring theme islanders are facing: If they are going to get aid from the government, they must deal with a wall of paperwork and approvals.

That said, many homeowners asked for the permission to take action at their own expense.

A standing-room-only crowd of almost 200 filled the Firemen’s Memorial Hall for the opportunity to hear decision-makers from the DEP, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and the Coastal Zone Management office.

The agenda of the session specifically stated that “enforcement actions and existing mitigation will not be discussed at this meeting.”

So no exchange took place about the massive rock pilings that have been put into place in front of the dunes on the south end of the beach within the last 10 days.

Moderator was state Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, who co-chairs the Merrimack River Beach Alliance.

He repeatedly urged the audience to be civil, listen to the speakers and ask questions at the end of the session.

Longtime resident Steve Bandoian became emotional as he recounted the loss of his house at 41 Annapolis Way, and criticized DEP officials for what he said was their delay and/or refusal to permit homeowners to take protective action at their own expense. His impassioned comments drew loud applause and shouts of support and encouragement.

But others in the audience, who appeared to be suffering through various degrees of frustration, were generally receptive as they heard a range of suggestions on how they can save their homes.

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