, Salem, MA

March 2, 2013

What would the plovers think?

What Others Say
Daily News of Newburyport

---- — We wonder what piping plovers would think if they had any clue of the vast amounts of bureaucracy, laws and handwringing that we humans have heaped upon their tiny heads.

Right now, plovers are at the center of a new conundrum that has hit Plum Island. On the one hand, our government has just allocated $5.5 million to complete the repairs to the battered Plum Island stone jetty. It’s a wise investment.

On the other hand, the government has also imposed a March 31 stop-work deadline on the jetty project. That deadline is driven by the government’s zeal to make sure that plovers aren’t deterred from building nests in the area where the jetty work is ongoing. It’s a foolish impediment.

In the coming weeks, local, state and federal officials will be discussing shifting or eliminating the plover deadline to accommodate the work on the jetty. This would only affect the area in the immediate vicinity of the jetty.

We hope that the powers that be will do what is logical — relax the plover deadline and allow the work to continue.

We’re not clear on why there was a deadline imposed in the first place, given the scope of work required to fix the jetties. Our government seems to have a penchant for setting self-destructive deadlines for itself — witness the ongoing “fiscal cliff” and “sequester” deadlines. Would it not be far better to focus on solving problems instead of fixating on artificial deadlines?

From a taxpayer standpoint, it makes good sense to get rid of the construction moratorium deadline. The heavy equipment needed to do the job is already on site, and it has been estimated that it will cost many thousands of dollars to break down the site temporarily, and then set it up again when the plover moratorium ends in late August. We can’t think of a more wasteful expense than this.

For Plum islanders who are hoping to see erosion curtailed, time is essential. These jetty repairs must be done as soon as possible in order to change the tidal and current dynamics that occur around the damaged jetty. It is clear from past experience that if the jetty is fully repaired, the beach will begin to mend.

Lastly, what would a plover think? Most likely, they would think and do what any other rational, reproducing and survival-minded critter would do — they would find a better place to make their nests and raise their young than next to an active construction site. Already we have more than six miles of Plum Island beachfront that is set aside every year exclusively for plovers in the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. Along stretches of the beach that are not in the refuge, state wildlife officials set up fences around plover nests to protect them.

Losing a couple hundred yards of potential habitat is a grain in the sand compared to the 25-plus miles of beaches that are open to plover nests. Government officials ought to do what makes sense — get rid of the construction moratorium at the jetty site so that the work can progress smoothly and in a cost efficient manner.