NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

April 17, 2013

State allows 'sand mining' on Plum Island beach

NEWBURY — The commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection has given Plum Island homeowners permission to “mine” sand in an effort to replenish the dunes here.

Kenneth Kimmell, in a letter to Marc Sarkady, the president of the Plum Island Foundation, yesterday said, “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.”

Sarkady, a lawyer and oceanfront homeowner who heads the Plum Island Foundation, said, “This is a very positive step. The DEP has indicated they will be helping us, and I am encouraged that we, including town officials, are working together.”

Winter storms have caused significant erosion on the island and devastation to some homes. Six houses were destroyed and removed, and about two dozen others are in peril, according to town officials.

Plum Island residents have sought permission from state officials to “mine” sand as a means to replenish the disappearing dunes. This would mean taking heavy equipment on the beach when the tide is out, scooping up large amounts of sand and depositing it near the high water mark.

Residents say this was done successfully from 1978 to 1999, and they provided documentation to state DEP officials in recent weeks in an effort to obtain permission to do it again. The practice was banned by the state in 1999.

The DEP is going to permit Phase 1 of such a plan, and state and local officials will assess the results.

DEP leaders say if Phase 1 is not successful, “Phase 2 may not proceed.”

Kimmell’s letter said, “We continue to be concerned that conducting this type of activity could have negative impacts and be unsustainable.”

He urged residents to bring in “sand from upland sources ... as people in other coastal areas currently employ successfully.”

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