Posted by: coastlinesproject | March 27, 2017

Newburyport, Coastal Geologist Rob Young to speak on March 29th.


Rob Young

March 29, 2017



After Hurricane Mathew passed through last October, everyone gave a sigh of relief. It hadn’t killed as many U.S. citizens as either Hurricane Sandy or Katrina. And it also hadn’t damaged as many roads and homes as had been expected.


But coastal geologist Rob Young was less sanguine. The storm had torn up beaches and obliterated protecting sand dunes from Florida to Virginia including in Folly Beach, South Carolina.


Rob was the director of the Developed Shorelines Program at the University of Western Carolina and the program had been using Folly Beach to study beach management for almost three decades. He knew the town’s history of beach renourishment would have particular resonance for the residents of Plum Island where he was scheduled to give a talk to their storm surge group in March.


In the 1890’s Folly Beach’s neighbor, Charleston, like Newburyport, had constructed jetties to stabilize the mouth of their harbor, but their jetties had also cut off the flow of sand to Folly Beach causing as much as 5 feet of erosion per year. The residents of Folly Beach then built seawalls to protect their homes but the seawalls had destroyed the beach. So in 1994, the town convinced the Army Corps of Engineers to use dredged sand to both build up the beach and construct a berm to protect private property.


But two years later, both the berm and beach were gone, although the Corps had predicted they wouldn’t have to be replaced for a decade. In fact the Corps argued that the beach was actually still there, but it was just underwater. To which the former director of the program, the irrepressible Orrin Pilkie replied, “True, but underwater sand is a very uncomfortable place to play volleyball.” He was also known for likening the Army Corps of Engineers to a large water-loving dinosaur with fewer brains per pound of flesh than any other vertebrate.


So, Rob knew from experience that people would clamor for the federal government to pay to replace beaches after Hurricane Mathew, because The Federal Emergency Management Agency had decided that if dunes and beaches had been put in place to protect coastal property they should be considered infrastructure. That meant that even if a community hadn’t suffered any property damage it could still be eligible to receive millions of federal dollars to repair its beaches.


Did FEMA’s determination mean that the two artificial dunes that Massachusetts had built to protect the houses on Northern Reservation Terrace would also come with their own implicit guarantee? Now that the storms were washing the dunes away during declared emergencies, would FEMA be on the hook to replace them? Or, should the United States adopt an entirely different approach to our coasts in the new era of sea level rise?


People will be able to find out when Rob Young gives his Storm Surge lecture At the Newburyport City Hall at 7:00pm on March 29th .





William Sargent is a member of Storm Surge that helps support these articles. His book, Plum Island; 2016, is available in local bookstores and at


Dr. Young will be presenting a Storm Surge lecture in   Newburyport City Hall on March 29th at 7pm.




Posted by: coastlinesproject | March 26, 2017

Soft-shell green crab meeting.

For Citizen-Scientists Who Also Love Seafood

What: A public meeting about producing an entirely new kind of seafood in New England, soft-shell green crabs.

When: Thursday April 6, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the cafeteria in the basement of Ipswich Town Hall.

Who’s invited: Everyone – Interested members of the public, fans of gourmet seafood, fishermen, seafood company people, and above all, citizen-scientists.

Why: You have a chance to help turn an ecological invader into a source of incredibly good seafood. To turn a minus into a plus! Non-native green crabs have invaded New England’s coastal waters and for the last few years have been marauding our wild clams and mussels. (That’s a huge minus.) Luckily for us, the crabs also have a plus – they taste great! – and in the spring most male crabs shed their hard shells. For a short time, they become soft-shells, and can be fried and eaten whole.

How: We have learned techniques from the traditional fishermen of Venice, Italy. For centuries, the Venetians have been producing soft-shell green crabs as a gourmet, highly-prized food specialty. With the support of the Ipswich town government and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, we are starting a pilot program to create America’s first crop of soft-shell green crabs this spring, from April to June, using what the Venetians have taught us.

What’s involved: At the April 6 meeting, there will be a brief but entertaining slideshow about artisanal soft-shell green crab production and how we will adapting the techniques here. Later in April, May, and June, volunteers will be sorting the crabs and putting those most likely to “molt” or shed their hard shells in saltwater tanks.

What’s in it for you: You could help make seafood history in New England. And, if you have an aquarium, or if you are willing to keep a floating trap in an estuary, you can cook and eat all the soft-shell crabs you create. Soft-shell crabs will also be featured at a public festival organized by Ipswich Breweries in May.

The big picture: The town of Ipswich and the state have paid for green crab trapping for the last few years, but those subsidies haven’t gotten clear results and are going to be phased out. What’s needed instead is a way for trappers and seafood wholesalers to make good money from trapping green crabs. If there’s good money to be made, there will be market incentives to trap, and eventually the wild green crab population will be suppressed, which will also help the clams and the mussels. Of the several ways of making great food from green crabs, soft-shell green crabs offer the highest per-weight profit potential. The best guess is, at the wholesale level, soft-shell green crabs will be worth between $10 and $20 per pound.

This is an experiment. Our goal this first year is simply to produce 100 lbs of softshell green crabs, and to learn whatever we can along the way. Will we succeed? We have absolutely no idea! But we think it’s worth a try, and so do the town of Ipswich and the state. And if you help, you could make a big difference.

Speakers include: Roger Warner and Jonathan Taggart of Green Crab R & D (a new nonprofit organization), and Ipswich Shellfish Constable Scott LaPreste. We will also have some live green crabs at the meeting, for hands-on sorting – and it’s easy, once you know how.

Posted by: coastlinesproject | March 23, 2017

Arctic Ice lowest recorded level.

Posted by: coastlinesproject | March 22, 2017

NASA budget would cut earth sciences.

Posted by: coastlinesproject | March 21, 2017

Climate Change increasing type 2 diabetes?

Posted by: coastlinesproject | March 20, 2017

Fukushima 6 Years after the disaster.

Posted by: coastlinesproject | March 19, 2017

Plum Island slammed by winter storm Stella.

Chapter 35


March 14, 2017



Turns out, it is much easier to get into Mar-a-Lago without credentials than onto Plum Island without a resident ID.


I discovered this in the wake of winter storm Stella that blasted the island with driving snow and hurricane force on March 14th. The winds left the telephone poles that lined Plum Island Turnpike at a 45-degree angle, and over a hundred people without electricity. That number climbed to over 400 people when National Grid sent repair trucks from as far away as Alabama to start turning off the power to replace the old poles.


Newburyport police officers set up roadblocks to stop people from entering or leaving the island then restricted the area to just people with resident ID’s. They also helped drive people with infants or disabled family members to the Salvation Army’s shelter where they could get warmth, medications and oxygen.


Some of the residents of Northern Reservation Terrace simply opted for the shelter rather than spending another cold dark night on the island. They remembered what it had been like two winters before when their basements filled with raw sewerage after the island’s finicky sewerage system had failed. Who wanted to repeat that experience again?


On March 17 I went out to see the results of the storm at low tide, when I could walk on the beach. Unlike a traditional Northeaster that stalls off the coast for several days Stella had blasted through in less than 12 hours so she had only been around for a single tidal cycle. So, like during a hurricane, the island had experienced more wind damage than erosion.


Newbury’s seawall had failed in several places and the foundation of one of the out houses had cracked but the main houses were all intact but slightly closer to the edge than you would want to be on a cold dark night with your house shaking in hurricane force winds.


But the Merrimack River’s South Jetty was a different story. It seemed like Stella had thrown all her forces at this single redoubt. Fourteen-foot waves had battered the jetty from both sides, washing sand through the structure from the oceanside and exploding up through the jetty from the riverside.


The waves had battered down the ten-foot high ridge of sand that had guarded the jetty from ocean waves. This had allowed them to wash unimpeded through a stretch of the jetty that was as long as a football field. This had allowed about eight thousand cubic yards of sand to flow through the jetty. Now it lay in a pristine white sandbar of finely sifted sand over an acre in size and four feet deep. This was about two thousand more cubic yards of sand than had been washed through the jetty during any storm the year before.


When I returned home and compared my photos of the jetty taken last year with those taken this year, I thought I could see why. It looked like the relentless battering from winter storm Stella had caused the jetty to settle a few more inches. I couldn’t wait for Paul Crofts Essex Tech students to measure whether this was true.


The storm had also put the communities of Newbury and Newburyport’s approaches to erosion control in stark contrast with each other. Residents of Newburyport were already working with the city, state and federal governments to rebuild the $150,000 sacrificial dunes that had saved them from winter storm Stella.


But the residents of Newbury had taken the law into their own hands, threatening to sue the town, state and federal government while rebuilding their multi-million dollar illegal seawall that had failed every year since 2013. And the town and state had acquiesced to the situation turning a blind eye to the residents’ transgressions.


But the residents had also expected the town, state and federal officials to spend over $25 Million to build anti-erosion devices and now they wanted them to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to dredge sand from the Piscataqua River in Maine and pump it in front of their houses. But people were starting to ask, why should the public pay for such projects that are so short-lived and only protect private property?



Posted by: coastlinesproject | March 18, 2017

Massachusetts could be devastated by Trump’s budget.

Posted by: coastlinesproject | March 17, 2017

Coast Guard cuts risk US security.

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