Sargent offers provocative thoughts in ‘Plum Island 2016’
Updated Dec 17, 2016
Veteran journalist Bill Sargent has written a new book about Plum Island and it offers a contrarian point of view about the health of the beloved oceanside retreat.
The text is titled “Plum Island, 2016,” and it was made possible “with grants from the Quebec Labrador Foundation, the Sounds Conservancy and the Storm Surge coast adaptation work group.”
The activist Ipswich writer provides a unique voice in discussions of Plum Island.
Most “news” of PI is generated by the Merrimack River Beach Alliance, a group of state, local and federal officials who meet to discuss concerns of stakeholders there.
The most verbal constituents of the MRBA are homeowners who feel their houses are threatened by erosion and/or storms.
In 2014, this organization, co-chaired by state Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, and Salisbury lawyer Jerry Klima, brought in close to $20 million in federal funds to repair the north and south jetties, which on paper is a major accomplishment.
In recent months, though, homeowners near the northern section of the Newburyport end have expressed concern that the jetties have fostered changes in waves and water action.
Sand in front of their homes is eroding, suggesting that within several years the tides could come over the dunes and flow down into their streets (and basements).
Newburyport officials are working on short-term fixes, while the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers is reportedly planning to launch a major study with specialists from its office in Vicksburg, Miss., to determine exactly what is happening.
Sargent has worked with local drone scientist Ethan Cohen, and the pair has emerged as something akin to experts on charting erosion – even that local, state and federal officials are the responsible parties.
Sargent talks about huge houses being built in the fragile dunes at the Newbury end, and of backhoes being used on parts of Newbury shoreline to move boulders and reshape the beach.
Such beach-altering actions have not necessarily been approved by state authorities, but the homeowners are determined to save their dwellings.
He marvels that some buyers are purchasing seaside lots in Newbury upon which storm-battered houses have previously been condemned and removed. But there it is – some folks just want to live on the water.
And Sargent suggests the recent fix of the south jetty is creating more erosion at the Newburyport end, and thus putting new neighborhoods in jeopardy.
Not many local or state officials are publicly acknowledging how damage is being done by man as well as nature.
Sargent is one of the few who does, and his suggestions are provocative – and perhaps useful.
William Sargent’s latest book, Plum Island; 2016, is available in local bookstores and at http://www.ingramcontent.com.