Thursday, April 3, 2008

On the beach

Here's the problem with being a writer - you get all these good ideas while you're driving down Route 1 and by the time you get where you're going, you've forgotten all the clever bon mots you came up with in the car.

I, too, am impressed with how PI residents came up with $35,000 to hire a lobbyist to save the beach. But I wish they had raised the bucks to help the Newbury Beach Committee help save that dune way back when.

Two years ago I ran into some of its members, out in the brisk air, erecting snow fencing on that primary dune that is now in peril. At the time they were desperately seeking funds to purchase beach grass to plant on the dune.

Now I'm no expert, but while doing research for this story, and in conversation with John Tierney (I know, he's not the most popular legislator around), it seems as if a lobbyist isn't going to make that much difference.

Not in the piece is this: That man from the Army Corps of Engineers said that if the mouth of the river led to a major port, it would be a different story. And there is just no extra money for non-crucial beach replenishment. He added, "And they know that," meaning officials in Newbury and possibly Newburyport.

Of course, no one wants our neighbors' houses to fall into the ocean. But read these, which I used in part for the piece referenced above (and for which I was charged with "misleading" by the said lobbyist, Howard Marlowe):

Coastal erosion is a knotty issue. Slowing global warming -- the ultimate cause for heightened concern about the future -- is proving problematic, to put it charitably. And many localized cures for erosion are worse than the disease. Some are "beggar-thy-neighbor" solutions that steal sand from one location to save another. Others are expensive Band Aids that pump sand from deep waters to the beach, where it immediately begins washing away. (Source:

Then there's this, from the New York Times:

The threat has driven many communities to seek refuge behind seawalls and jetties, only to find that these costly engineering projects often make the erosion worse, either for them or for neighbors down the coast. Other resorts are spending vast sums to pump new sand onto their beaches, only to see the sand disappear again within a few years.

Many engineers maintain that seawalls, jetties and replenished beaches are necessary to protect the valued developments already on the barrier islands. Too many people live or vacation at Atlantic City, Miami Beach and other barrier island towns to let their roads and buildings simply fall into the sea, these experts say.

But many environmentalists and geologists contend that roads and buildings just do not belong on the unstable, migrating islands. At a minimum, some critics say, the Government should discourage further development on barrier islands by refusing to subsidize such projects as roads and waste treatment plants, or property insurance for owners.

And this from the Wetlands Institute:

In their natural state, free to move and react to the “whims” of the sea, barrier islands provide invaluable protection to the mainland. In the calm waters behind harrier islands, salt marshes, the most productive of all ecosystems, are able to develop and thrive. Barrier islands provide important habitat for many species of plants and animals. Left to the forces of nature, barrier islands are one of the most beautiful of all landscapes. Built upon, developed and “improved” they merely become the next “natural” disaster waiting to happen.

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