NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

March 18, 2013

Many questions linger on next moves for Plum Island

Two meetings are coming up that could be important to the future of Plum Island. On Friday, the Merrimack River Beach Alliance will gather to discuss beach-repair operations; no venue or time has been confirmed yet. Next Monday, a group concerned about the rising of the sea will gather at 6:45 p.m. at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge headquarters, 6 Plum Island Turnpike.

Island homeowners attending the MRBA meeting will likely learn more about key issues relating to rebuilding.

And it might become clearer about who or what agencies will pay for the recent damage caused by erosion and/or winter storms.

So far, it’s not looking good.

State Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, who is co-chairman of the alliance, has indicated Plum Island is not eligible for federal or state aid. But he said he will be reporting back Friday on ways that oceanside homeowners can deal with future threats to their homes.

Some oceanside residents have asked for permission to use heavy machinery to “mine” sand and move it in front of their homes.

Others want permission to import huge rocks to place in front of their diminishing dunes. (This is happening already).

Whether officials of the state Department of Environmental Protection will bend on regulations that discourage such practices might become known on Friday. At last week’s capacity-crowd meeting on the island, no DEP representatives were present.

Dilemma: The community wants to save the houses, but state officials don’t want to cede authority on environmental issues to homeowners with backhoes.

Perhaps the DEP will send word on what it will permit.

Regarding the meeting a week from today, the sea-rise crowd could address the issue of how does climate change affect the local barrier island.

At least one key issue could be discussed: building permits.

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