, Newburyport, MA


January 11, 2013

A look back at Plum Island's stormy history

A brief tour of Plum Island’s currently troubled center on Monday of this week led me to a revisiting of 1962-1965 when the groins were installed at several locations along its beachfronts.

I don’t recall a time since that installation when the groins, once covered, were as completely exposed as they are, but the more I pondered that, the deeper I looked into the island’s storm history.

What is to be seen is the center of the beach as it was then, and the bare granite boulders as they were when installed.

They laid bare then at the beach’s center, and lie bare today southerly from the island’s center where homeowners are doing what they can to protect their properties from the fate of those who, a half century or so ago, were unsuccessful in their effort.

That does not change over time.

What has changed over a half century is Plum Island’s shared water and sewage facilities, the building of upscale homes and their growth- related tax revenues to both Newbury and Newburyport.

Those interested in the past might revisit Plum Island’s center the better to appreciate the inevitability of erosion problems of barrier beaches.

Those residents of a half century ago had their own anxious times, even as we and those who follow us will any time nature produces extreme weather with or without the jetties being in disrepair.

There have been several storms in my lifetime of shared major problems because Plum Island is a barrier beach that protects the marshes and cities and towns upstream from it.

A bit over 8 miles in length, it is a model for what barrier beaches undergo. Nature did not design them for habitation, but there is that about them that inevitably attracts us to live as close to the ocean as possible.

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