Reporting Michael Rosenfield
PLUM ISLAND (CBS) – Mark Greenberg is one of the many Plum Island homeowners taking matters into their own hands by using boulders and cement blocks to buffer homes against the waves, which this month alone have led to six beachside homes being demolished.
“Right now I feel good,” said Greenberg. “We’ve protected our houses. Now we just have to argue to keep our houses protected.”
When the last storm which hit the coast hard rolled in earlier this month, homeowners were given the green light by state officials to do whatever they needed to in order to protect their homes during the local emergency.
But now they have received a letter from the Department of Environmental Protection which indicates all the rocks may be against state regulations and that “such structures do more harm than good, by reflecting wave energy and causing greater erosion impacts.”
Homeowners are frustrated.
“It’s disappointing, in a way tone deaf to what’s going on,” said Greenberg. “We were told to protect our homes and the only way we could protect our homes was to stop the erosion.”
The rocks and cement blocks cost homeowners tens of thousands of dollars and now they may have to be hauled away. The letter states “you will be required to take necessary corrective actions…this may include removing any hard structures.”
“We’ve just had a systemic failure at all levels of government and property owners are now forced to fend for themselves to protect their houses and families,” said Bob Connors whose home sits along the beach.
Town administrator Tracy Blais says state officials were clear that once the danger passed everything would have to be brought into compliance, but there were no specifics.
“It was very vague,” said Blais. “It was just do what you needed to do to protect your property.”
DEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell told WBZ-TV by phone that the department has tried not to give mixed messages and that once storm season is over and the erosion threat has passed for the season, rocks would most likely have to be removed. Inspectors will be checking all of the work that has been done at some point in the near future. A meeting with state and local officials as well as homeowners is scheduled for Tuesday night to answer questions and to make sure everyone is on the same page.
In a statement to WBZ-TV, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, who represents the area, said, “Clearly we must act responsibly to protect the environment on Plum Island and surrounding areas, yet we must also do everything possible to prevent the loss of homes and threats to public safety. The situation caused by recent and continuing coastal erosion on the island demands the leadership, innovation and action necessary to protect homes and the environment through engineering, technological advances and regulatory flexibility.”