, Newburyport, MA


November 2, 2012

Taking heed of Sandy's warning


Therein lies Plum Island’s uncertain future.

If this is a one-off our successors can do what we’ve been doing over three centuries - making what we can of what’s at hand by making use of seaside properties. If that depends on relying on higher governmental authority to respond to our needs in times of bad outcomes, well, so be it.

If, however, such storms become a part of our future, all bets are off because our barrier beach will have increasingly uncertain longevity.

Erosion is a natural force. We seem to have forgotten that. The coast line of Massachusetts once stretched far seaward and we live with nature’s work in progress.

The front page photograph of Wednesday’s Daily News caught my eye because it appeared the storm had removed the sand covering of the westerly end of the stone groin emplaced more than a half century ago when the condition of the jetties was in far worse shape.

Former Mayor Albert H. Zabriskie had seen to the origin of all of what were called “groins,’’ an innovation now held in some disrepute because in some cases they have accelerated beach erosion. For most of a half century they did their job well enough between the years when the north and south jetties remained relatively intact.

That was especially evident in the creation and extension of plant covered dunes extending from the Newburyport-Newbury area, but the best evidence of their value comes with the burying of the groin stones. The uncovering of those at the center is disquieting, and it is well that the restoration of the jetties is an action in process.

All matters considered, Sandy, this “evil spirit’’ has delivered a message. Seaside settlers along the Atlantic coast take heed.

Bill Plante is a Newbury resident and a staff columnist.

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