, Newburyport, MA


March 1, 2013

The ebb and flow of Plum Island

Friend Gene Smith called to tell me on Wednesday that northeast winds were beating the bejabbers out of Plum Island once again; and after we hung up, I was reminded of that old truism that the more things change, the more they seem to stay the same.

Seems so in the lifetimes of those who have spent much of their lives at Plum Island, but ...

The ocean has been beating up on it since it was formed following the retreat of an Ice Age that began some 12,000 years ago. It’s not just an island. It’s a barrier island, and that makes for problems for those on and behind them at risk.

That took some making over centuries, because if what I have been led to understand is accurate, what passed for the coastline then was more than 20 miles seaward at Stellwagen Bank.

It’s fair to say that northeasters beat up on whatever the shorelines were up and down the East Coast before the barrier beaches of Salisbury and Plum Island we know today were formed.

Be that as it may, we tend to respond to what we live with and I have been doing that here for just short of a century.

One of the things I was able to do by way of my time with The Daily News was to call our then Congressman William H. Bates shortly before he died in office to ask for help regarding the need for an engineering study concerning the relevance of the Merrimack River’s relationship to Plum Island’s erosion problems.

I had been playing with the idea that if the rock bed in the river at Ben Butler’s Toothpick were removed, perhaps the outward river current would not be diverted toward Plum Island, thereby keeping the river channel between and beyond less prone to buildup.

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