NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

May 3, 2013

Sand dunes a big answer to PI problems

A few weeks back, I came by a copy of a 1971 “How To Build and Save Beaches and Dunes” bulletin of the University of Rhode Island.

It consists of only 12 pages, the last of which, entitled “Useful Reading,” lists 18 publications.

I then did a computer search that responded with 1,560,000 related hits.

The result? Plum Island is but one of thousands studied by NASA in recent years, and apparently is better off by way of its location on the northeast Atlantic seaboard than those in other areas of the world.

While other regions show an average annual loss rate of about an eighth of an inch a year, our northeast Atlantic coastal loss appears to be lower.

Key word? “Appears,” and the study goes on.

Taking such matters personally, and generally making the worst of what I make of them, Plum Island hasn’t lost all that much during my considerably long lifetime.

It just seems so. Sporadically over time, because it’s fortunate to be on the down side of what sand comes down the Merrimack River, the movement is generally southerly.

Think not? Call up Google Earth on a computer, enlarge the near offshore view and marvel at the amount of sand making is way from the river’s mouth to the southerly end of the island.

How to capture it?

That’s what the handbook “How To Build and Save Beaches and Dunes” is all about, and, happily enough, some of that is working at Plum Island.

It is rich with sand dunes. Not all islands are. Like football linemen on defense, however, they’re vulnerable. That’s why there are wooden walkways at the protected area.

What is in process at Plum Island is historic. It has been there a very long time. Over time homes have been grievously assaulted. There have been total losses and extraordinary costly preservation.

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