, Newburyport, MA


March 20, 2013

Pendulum of logic swings wildly on Plum Island

We look at what has happened on Plum Island over the past few months, and we see a man-made pendulum that continues to swing wildly from extreme to extreme. It has to stop. A solution based on cooperation and mutual understanding needs to be found.

For months, homeowners along the most imperiled stretch of beach just south of the Island Center had been trying to get approval from the state to shore up the crumbling dunes on which their homes sit. Many were frustrated by how they were treated by the state — their requests were sat on “under review,” even as the urgency of their situation became more apparent. Some of the same old delay tactics that have visited our coast in the past, such as bureaucratic hoops concerning piping plover habitat, were thrown up as roadblocks. Anger and frustration simmered at a government agency that seemed more interested in its own bureaucratic mechanisms than in helping homeowners who were reaching out for help.

Then came the nor’easter of March 7-9, and the worst fears came to pass. More than 20 feet of dune was stripped away over the course of four high tides. Two homes tumbled over; four others were so badly compromised they had to be torn down. More than 30 homes now found themselves on or near the dune precipice. The national media’s spotlight fell on Plum Island.

The anger and frustration over this traumatic event vented at a public hearing. A tremendous amount of outrage was expressed at the state Department of Environmental Protection. It didn’t help matters that the agency didn’t bother to send anyone to the meeting, which only furthered the perception that the agency is out of touch with homeowners and is unwilling to listen to criticism.

Now, the pendulum has swung wildly to the extreme.

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