Saturday, March 20, 2010

Newbury gets emergency certification

In case you missed it, here is the video from Channel 7's evening news about the (2-hour) emergency meeting called yesterday to discuss erosion on Plum Island. There does seem to be extra sand there, by the tide line, but I wonder if it will migrate back to the dune on its own?

Well, I'm no expert (although I do play one on this blog). Anyway, the Daily News is reporting that the other emergency measures (excluding the beach scraping) were approved late yesterday, for the homes in Newbury. It's worth noting that the other measures are relatively inexpensive.

I don't see any mention of Dr. Hemani's property on 55th St. in Newburyport being included in the emergency certification and who will actually pay for the hay bales, etc., in Newbury. Hemani forked out $20,000 about 18 months ago for sand bags, sand and permits.

Did I say before that someone said to me that expecting the government to bail homeowners out of this is a little .... er .... Socialist? The town does own the beach, after all, the person noted, and when Sen. Bruce Tarr asked someone (anyone) to step up to submit a proposal to the state for beach scraping, no one stepped up. And Tarr wasn't even asking for money; he was just asking for a proposal. It seems rather capitalist to me (expending public funds to protect revenue from property taxes and tourism as opposed to looking at it as saving people's homes). Any thoughts on this?

(Residents did pay for beach scraping in the past and they do pay for snow fencing and beach grass, apparently, on their properties on the primary dune.)

I was over at Hemani's (summer) house last week, after I wrote the story for the Current, and he has imported sand in to bolster the structure, which was sitting on the edge of the dune after the Feb. 25 storm. He is a little miffed that Newbury gets all this attention, emergency certification, etc., and Newburyport gets nothing. Plus he was denied a permit to repair/replace his sand bags after the storm.

But Newbury pushes for it, don't they? Then again, it is the Plum Island Foundation, not the Newbury Part of Plum Island Foundation.

The man from MEMA (the Mass. Emergency Management Agency), Peter Judge, said that there is little hope of getting FEMA funds because FEMA only likes to fund permanent fixes. Scraping the beach has about the same shelf life as the beach nourishment (since it's basically the same thing, only with fewer elaborate calculations about beach slope thrown in), which is 5 yrs., max.

Toss in there the fact that no one is quite sure what the permanent fix might be - it's a complicated shoreline - and you've got mass confusion (pun intended).


Anonymous said...

Somehow, "shoveling sand against the tide" seems singularly appropriate when discussing the "stability" of a barrier beach.

When God decides it is time to re-arrange the furniture....who is going to stop it?

That aspect aside, the simplest solution I can come up with is this:

1. Declare what stabilization methods (scraping the sand, filling those big coconut husk bags, riprap, or whatever) are permissible.

2. Declare a concise amount of beach that a property owner can stabilize (on a line 15 feet to seaward of his foundation wall, for example)

3. Make the permit process for undertaking stabilization simple and inexpensive ($15 or so for the permit). Make it easy for a home owner to obtain the necessary permit to authorize the necessary (pre-approved method of) stabilization.

Generally I believe that you get what you get when you perch your home on a sand dune on a barrier island (Somewhere I believe that there is a biblical quote about building your house on sand, instead of rock...but I am too lazy to look it up)And I think you own the problem of beach erosion that might threaten your home...

But I also believe that the town/state/federal government needs to make the allowable fix both well defined and readily available, with an absolute minimum amount of bureaucratic run around...

Sarah Swart said...

Don't know who said the above, but I (kind of) second it. In an ideal world? I lean more toward the Socialist end: seize those damn houses. Whose idiotic idea was it to build there anyway?!? I do not resent paying more in taxes for folks who don't have health insurance, but for saving houses that are erected in the very face of Mother Nature? Forget it. Is there truly a significant rental community on PI in the summertime, bringing in millions? 'cuz it would have to be millions.

Gillian Swart said...

It's not the rentals (of which there aren't that many these days), it's the big old houses that have replaced the little cottages. In some cases, people bought a summer cottage, knocked it down, and built a big old year-round residence closer to the water (on the dune, of course). Newburyport has an, I think, 250-foot setback but Newbury does not. If I recall correctly, the cost-benefit ratio for the beach nourishment project as stated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was not that much on the side of "benefit."