Posted by: coastlinesproject | March 30, 2013

Plum Island; Let’s not blow it!

Time to Step up to the Plate


Plum Island



At the recent Coastal Hazards Meeting, Plum Islanders were offered a reprieve. Now it is their turn to step up to the plate and present a professional plan for building an artificial dune to protect their island homes.


Senator Tarr hosted the meeting, which allowed island residents to vent their spleen at state officials who accepted the criticisms with professionalism and the offer to work together to solve the homeowners problems.


Ken Kimmel, the head of the DEP could have taken umbrage.  His department leaned over backwards to allow homeowners to build a half-mile long sandbag seawall and scape sand off the beach to build a temporary sand dune. Then several homeowners had ignored the state and dumped several hundred tons of rocks and concrete blocks on the beach, which would be illegal in almost every other coastal state. Instead the head of the DEP promised to consider homeowners plans to mine the beach for sand to rebuild an artificial sand dune that homeowners built after the 1978 blizzard.


But some Plum Island residents are now saying they are affronted that the DEP is asking them to hire an engineer to prepare a proper proposal to do the work.


Folks this is 2013. You have to pay a professional if you want to do something as simple as planting beach grass and trimming the trees in front of your beachfront home. If people can afford to pay $40,000 to dump rocks on a beach used by public all summer long, then surely they can come up with a professional plan to build an artificial sand dune. To say that the state should have no jurisdiction in the matter is like saying residents of Beacon Hill don’t need to permission from state agencies before they dig up Boston Common.


A legitimate argument can be made that an artificial sand dune may work. Similar sand dunes saved homes in New Jersey during Hurricane Sandy.


But the other useful thing that an artificial sand dune might do is to avoid a showdown that nobody wants. Homeowners don’t want to have to pay $40,000 to remove the rocks they put on the beach illegally and the state doesn’t want to be a Scrooge for making them do so.


So Plum Islanders have been given a reprieve. But now they have to step up to the plate and do their part. They have to hire a professional engineer to prepare a plan for approval just like anyone else in our commonwealth.

Read more in; Storm Surge; A Coastal Village Battles the Atlantic, Just Seconds From the Ocean; Coastal Living in the wake of Katrina and Beach Wars; 10,000 Years on a Barrier Beach. See Strawberry Hill, UPNE, and Schiffer book tabs at the top of this page.






  1. The DEP and CZM stopped dune restoration in 1999.
    The dune that was lost in March of this year was a man made dune from a dune restoration project in 1978 !!! The man made dune lasted 35 years. The DEP is lying when they say man made dunes do not work. How long does a dune have to be in place before it is called a success? Is 35 years enough?
    The Army corps, DEP & CZM had our application for emergency beach scraping that they would not approve for 4 months. It still has not been approved. Mean while 6 homes were destroyed. They said they needed more engineering studies to be done and that the engineering already done was not good enough. The engineering was done and they didn’t like it. It was preformed by a coastal geologist with a PHD. It was not insufficient what this is; its A STALL TACTIC. The author of this article doesn’t know what’s been going on behind the scenes. When we heard that we needed more engineering we recognized it for what it was, it’s more stalling and mean while more homes are going in the water.
    These government agencies are doing every thing they can to stall, hinder and over regulate home owners from protecting their property that they own all the way to the mean low tide line. The concrete and riprap boulders would not have been necessary if we were aloud to maintain a dune all along. DEP and CZM’s policy and agenda is coastal retreat

    AS OF 2007
    “Managed or planned retreat allows the shoreline to advance inward unimpeded. As the shore erodes, buildings and other infrastructure are either demolished or relocated inland. Coastal managers realize that in many situations attempting to stop erosion through structural or non-structural solutions is a losing battle. Shoreline protection efforts and/or their repeated maintenance would be too costly and ultimately ineffective at preventing further erosion. A managed retreat approach typically involves establishing thresholds to trigger demolition or relocation of structures threatened by erosion. Therefore, this approach is frequently coupled with several other planning and regulatory techniques including: shoreline planning, to identify high-risk areas where this type of policy would be the only cost-effective, long-term solution; regulating the type of structure allowed near the shore to ensure that buildings are small enough and constructed in a way to facilitate relocation when needed; and instituting relocation assistance and/or buy-back programs to help with relocation costs or compensate property owners when their property becomes unusable. While the overall policy emphasizes retreat, a managed retreat approach may allow some erosion control measures using soft-stabilization techniques to prolong the life of shorefront buildings and other infrastructure for a little while. However, hard stabilization structures or repeated beach renourishment are generally not permitted.”

    • You are correct. Elevation and relocation is the recommended Federal policy. To my mind the state DEP is offering homeowners an olive branch by considering rebuilding an artificial sand dune. To my mind all the more reason to put together the best proposal you can.

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