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Merrimack Valley

March 12, 2013

On island, 40 homes deemed 'at risk'

NEWBURY — Town officials yesterday reported that more than three dozen houses on Plum Island are in the “at risk” category, and an inventory shows that others have been destroyed or dismantled.

Tracy Blais, town administrator, spoke yesterday at a meeting of the Merrimack River Beach Alliance. She said that 40 houses are “at risk,” 13 homes have lost their occupancy permits, six dwellings are “severely” damaged and three residences have been destroyed and dismantled.

Town officials joined state representatives in seeking immediate assistance and collaboration from state authorities to respond to the damage caused by beachfront erosion.

A letter recently was sent to Gov. Deval Patrick that said, in part, “Plum Island, like other shore communities, continues to search for long-term solutions, and we ask for your partnership in this quest.

“We respectfully ask that you summon all available state resources to assist these communities, and find a solution to address this matter.”

It was signed by state Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, state Rep. Lenny Mirra, R-West Newbury, and Joe Story, chairman of the town’s Board of Selectmen.

Though many oceanside residences on Annapolis Way and Fordham Way are under duress, no consensus emerged yesterday on what corrective action can be taken.

Several homeowners stated they want permission to take heavy machinery on the beach and “mine” significant amounts of sand so it can be captured at low tide and brought west to replenish the dunes.

Cheryl Jones-Comeau, of 40 Fordham Way, said that in the ’70s, local residents had excavated holes “of a size to bury a battleship” and taken that sand to build up the nearby dune.

“It works,” she said. “It’s been done and it was effective. And now, we need the dune back.”

But Tarr and others cautioned that scraping and “mining” require permits from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

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