Posted by: coastlinesproject | November 10, 2015

Plum Island Building four new houses on same footprint as before.

What’s the Rush?



All of a sudden there are three new houses going up on Plum Island; one that was lost in 2008, one near the Refuge, and one on Southern Boulevard. The Newbury Conservation Commission gave permission for the owners of the first house to sink pilings but the pilings were left to rust in the sand for several years until the new owners started to rebuild just a few weeks ago.


The land near the refuge had been given to Newbury to act as a buffer between the town and the federally owned land. Newbury had to overturn the deed so the lot could be developed. But now a large new home is going up on the 5-acre lot of fragile dunes.


The former Southern Boulevard house was damaged by fire, and then it lay boarded up and vacant as it was being undermined by the ocean. It was only when the owners torn down the house that they could sell the empty lot for about $400,000. Within a week they had reportedly been given permission to start building a new house just 30 feet back from the duneline.


On the other side of the ledger, there are three houses in danger of being severely damaged by erosion this winter. They are all in the manmade hotspot of erosion created by the groins to the south of Center Groin.

The owner of one house off Dexter Way has had to truck in sand and add new boulders every year since his house was left precariously perched on stilts after the March storm in 2013.


The foundation of his neighbor’s house dropped several inches and cracked last year. And the owner of a house on Annapolis Way is in danger because his neighbor repaired the seawall so that it juts out several feet in front of the rest of the wall. This is causing waves to refract around the end of the seawall and scour out the beach in front of the Annapolis Way home. The same thing happened to the owner of Bennett Hill after their neighbor built a seawall in 2013 and the hill lost 60 feet of natural sand dune in one moderate storm.


During the recent high tides you could watch as long period waves crashed through the seawall and withdrew tons of sand from behind the wall leaving unseen caverns behind. But, now you can watch as sand cascades down the face of the seawall and into the caverns causing the seawall to collapse slowly backwards into the dune.


It is almost certain that several of these homes will be lost this winter. A coastal geologist would look at this situation and say that the homeowners have done almost everything in their power to increase the likelihood that the ocean will eventually burst through this manmade hotspot of erosion.


Why does the Newbury Conservation Commission keep giving permission to rebuild homes in harm’s way? The houses certainly don’t pass the town and state’s wetlands protection laws. The reason is money — tax revenues to be exact. An empty lot simply doesn’t earn the town any income so I guess it makes fiscal sense for the town to encourage new owners to build even though they are putting their lives and their nest eggs in extreme danger — to say nothing of the future of the barrier beach itself.




Read more in William Sargent’s new book, Energy Wars; A Report from the Front available in local bookstores and through and at







  1. Well written and hard-hitting….well done. Gay

    Sent from my iPhone


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