‘Green’ and ‘Gray’ Approaches to a Barrier Island


 As I See It,
Bill Sargent, The Daily News of Newburyport, Edition August 17, 2018

On July 22, one of Boston’s public radio stations, WBUR, presented a well-crafted story about fighting erosion on Plum Island (Part 2 of the story is ‘Entrench Or Retreat? That Is The Question On Plum Island’). It pointed out that residents on either end of the developed part of the island adopted diametrically opposite strategies to achieve similar ends.

The piece opened with Vern Ellis and two dozen volunteers and Reservation Terrace neighbors digging 10,000 holes to plant 20,000 clumps of dune grass. The roots of the grass would grow 3 or 4 feet into the sand to hopefully anchor the recently built berm in place during the winter’s upcoming storms.

Their efforts were a continuation of work that the University of New Hampshire’s Gregg Moore started after he obtained a “Sandy Grant” to help make communities more resilient to erosion. This was what coastal engineers refer to as “green infrastructure,” working with nature, not against it, to slow erosion.

But a mile up the beach, Bob Connors, and his neighbors were using a dramatically different approach. In 2012, a March storm washed away six houses and left 29 others uninhabitable for several months. Bob, who sits on the board of the Pacific Legal Foundation, the oldest and most powerful anti-environmental organization in the United States, advised the organization to sue Massachusetts if it continued to uphold its environmental regulations. Half an hour later, then Governor Deval Patrick backed down.


Copyright © 2018 The Daily News of Newburyport, Edition 8/17/2018


3 responses to “‘Green’ and ‘Gray’ Approaches to a Barrier Island”

  1. Plum Island is also a study in contrasts in the use of different resiliency measures. Ellis’ beach grass is what’s considered “green infrastructure,” a tread lightly approach that seeks to enhance and complement the natural environment. Others on Plum Island are committed to the more permanent, hardened solutions of walls and barriers, known as “gray infrastructure.”

    • Neither solutions are really permanent. Gray solutions weaken over time as solutions and shift the problem of erosion. Green Solutions actually strengthen over time. I think . of the Childhood Game, “Rock, Scissors, Paper”. Building upon the center groin has increased erosion to homeowners north of the groin. Similar situation to Northern Reservation Terrace. Should have known. Very disappointing.

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