BY DYKE HENDRICKSON STAFF WRITER
Newburyport Daily News
---- — NEWBURY - City, state and federal officials touring Plum Island yesterday just a week before election day came to a bipartisan consensus -- local beach communities were spared the devastation from tropical storm Sandy that hit other towns and cities in this state and others to the south.
U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, who toured a half-dozen communities throughout Massachusetts on Tuesday, said beaches in Newbury and Newburyport appeared to be in relatively good condition, in part because of preparation by local leaders.
“We visited Westport earlier in the day, and some houses, roads and power lines got hammered,” said the Republican senator. “But the energy companies have been pro-active and are working to bring make things right.”
Brown was among more than half-dozen officials who toured Plum Island in late afternoon to assess the effect of the storm. Others included state Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, Mayor Donna Holaday of Newburyport, Selectman Joe Story of Newbury, Town Administrator Tracy Blais of Newbury and several municipal department heads from the two communities.
Officials agreed that the beach-scraping that took place before the storm had helped save oceanfront homes from damage.
“The scraping worked,” said Tarr, who is co-chair of the Merrimack River Beach Alliance. “Because local, state and federal officials worked together, permits were acquired and sand was put in front of vulnerable homes.”
Bob Connors, a beachfront homeowner, offered his own assessment after the ocean surged with a few dozen feet of his beachfront residence.
“We moved excess sand and it really helped,” said Connors, who lives on Annapolis Way, where about eight houses were served by excess sand. “We had done the paperwork before the storm, and were able to move sand before it hit.”
Brown, who noted he had spent numerous summers of his youth on Plum Island, had been scheduled to debate with Democratic rival Elizabeth Warren last night.
But his schedule, like that of so many others, was altered by the storm. He did not seem disappointed to be missing another verbal confrontation.
“Residents are more concerned about their houses, their safety, their families,” said Brown. “We want to address their concerns, not have more debates.
“We had three already, plus two (radio) debates she didn’t show up for. With six days left and a wake-up, we’re going to be spending time with the people.”
Brown and several other officials, including Tarr, Holaday and Blais, got into an all-terrain vehicle, and rolled south from the public parking lot here to survey effects of erosion.
Then the vehicle returned, and rolled north for an assessment of more beachfront and also of the south jetty, which is scheduled to be fortified in coming months.