Erosion, Rare Beetles Threaten Cliffside Homes

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBCWashington.com

    Some Calvert County, Md., residents say their homes are in danger of sliding down the cliffs overlooking the Chesapeake Bay.

    The Lusby residents say that as time goes by, the cliffs continue to erode and get closer and closer to their homes. The thing that could stand in the way of protection from state and federal officials is a rare beetle classified as an endangered species that lives there, too.

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    When Bill Carmichael built his house 20 years ago it sat back 60 feet from the cliff. Erosion has reduced his backyard to 26 feet deep, and he's afraid his house may someday fall over the cliff, like his hot tub.

    His family last gathered around the hot tub deck Thanksgiving evening. The next morning, he discovered the hot tub was gone.

    "It had fallen down the side of the cliff along with the property it was built on," Carmichael said.

    The dangers of a landslide is so great that a portion of Golden West Way was closed, lowering property values, causing a family to abandoned its home and creating a major inconvenience for people trying to get to work, shopping or just around.

    Homeowner Chris Alderucci said instead of taking police, a fire truck or an ambulance five minutes to get to his home from the main road it takes 20 to 25 minutes to drive in the back way.

    Residents who own waterfront homes want to stop the erosion by building retaining walls but they are being restrained because it's a protected natural habitat of an endangered species -- the puritan tiger beetle, which burrow into the sandy cliff walls. Biologists estimate there are only 2,000 of the beetles left. There was twice that many last year.

    The Calvert County Board of Commissioners is trying to figure out a way to save the homes along the cliffs.

    "It will take the combined efforts of the county, state and federal government to figure out what needs to be done," said Board President Wilson Parran.

    In order to clear the way for residents to build barricades to protect their property from erosion, the Maryland Legislature is considering changing the law to allow the "incidental loss" of some of the beetles that would be displaced by construction.