Erosion on Plum Island prompts state of emergency
NEWBURY, Mass. (WHDH) -- Severe erosion on Plum Island has caused local leaders to declare a state of emergency.
Plum Island homes are at risk of being swept out to sea. Beach erosion prompted a State Senator Bruce Tarr and Congressman John Tierney to meet with residents and local and state officials Friday morning.
The Bennett family has owned a Plum Island house for 100 years. The view is spectacular, but when the weather is bad, the pounding surf is relentless.
“It's pretty scary. It comes right up and it rips it out,” said Elaine Bennett.
Steady erosion has left Elaine Bennett’s home just 20 feet from the edge of a steep dune. The steps down to the beach were washed away a year and a half ago.
Elaine’s husband attended a meeting Friday as homeowners fought to protect their property.
“My dad’s 89 years old and I know he’d hate to see it go over the banks,” said John Bennett, homeowner.
Four homes face an imminent threat. They could be condemned after another big Nor’easter. Homeowners are fighting for the right to push sand back up to the dunes after devastating storms.
“We should have the right to take the bump that comes out of your land, and push it back up with a bulldozer,” said Ronald Barrett, Plum Island Taxpayers Association.
For that, they need permits from the town of Newbury and the state. There are concerns that repeated scraping could actually lead to worse erosion.
“Beach scraping has to be done surgically and in a very limited way and in a responsible way. It’s not a be all end all, it’s not a panacea and it’s not a long-term solution,” said State Senator Bruce Tarr.
“We have to be as flexible as possible. We all understand the environmental rules and conservation issues involved,” said Representative John Tierney.
Tierney has worked to help get millions in federal funding to fix leaky jetties, which are supposed to protect the sand from the flowing Merrimac River. That project is due to begin this fall.
There will be meetings on beach scraping permits next week.