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Congress Approves Plan To Shore Up Sandwich Beaches

Posted on January 3, 2023

Congress has approved the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which addresses the need to shore up Sandwich beaches with material dredged from the Cape Cod Canal.

The bill was signed shortly before Christmas and now awaits the President’s signature.

Since the cause of the shore damage has been found to be the result of jetties that are owned and operated by the Army Corps of Engineers, the cost of the project will be a fully federal expense.

The jetties have been federally owned for more than 100 years.

This plan comes from the US Army Corps of Engineers Section 111 study, which spells out how the Corps-owned canal jetties are responsible for the ongoing erosion troubles along Town Neck and Spring Hill beaches and exactly what the Corps plans to do to make them right.

The jetties were installed and then later enlarged to reduce wave energy at the mouth of the canal and to prevent the shoaling of the channel itself. The report stated that the structures had the unfortunate effect of interrupting the natural flow of sand in the canal toward the Sandwich shoreline.

Erosion along the Sandwich shoreline has been a decades-long problem. A number of strong storms in recent years have further eaten away at the coast.

Per the report, up to 1.3 million cubic yards of material are projected to be lost from Sandwich beaches over the next 50 years.

Further, the loss of dunes in the area would pose a threat to historic Sandwich Village, exposing it to storm surge and wave runup, the report states. Erosion also poses a threat to wildlife in the area.

The federally recommended plan includes a one-time reconstruction of Town Neck Beach with 388,000 cubic yards of sand. This plan would use material dredged from Scusset Beach by using a hydraulic dredge as well as possible material from the Corps’ next routine dredging.

Currently, the Army Corps routinely dredges the canal, which removes about 90,000 cubic yards of sand every seven years. The material is disposed of offshore, but the report states that the material would benefit the shoreline if used on the beaches instead, by offsetting erosion by up to 70 percent.

The permit the town currently has from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection allows for a maximum borrow of 225,000 cubic yards of sand from Scusset Beach.

During a recent meeting of the Sandwich Board of Selectmen, several members of the Trustees of Sandwich Beaches appealed to the board during the public forum segment of the meeting to request that the permit be increased to allow for more sand to be dredged from Scusset Beach.

Robert L. DeRoeck asked that the town request be modified to permit a maximum of 400,000 cubic yards for several reasons.

He said that the Section 111 study makes a compelling argument for the need for additional sand and that it has been confirmed by the Woods Hole Group that there is plenty of sand off Scusset Beach. He said that if the state is maintaining that the 225,000-cubic-yard limit cannot be increased, the town should be pushing to find out why.

“The Army Corps has made it clear that the current 111 project is a one-time event and that Sandwich should not expect to receive any further beach renourishment from the Army Corps,” he said. “The Trustees of Sandwich Beaches believe that Sandwich should do everything possible to ensure we get the full quantity of sand recommended in the 111 report.”

His comments were supported by fellow trustee Laura B. Wing, who said that they were just trying to push to get as much sand as possible.

While selectmen are not able to discuss matters during public forum, board chairman Shane T. Hoctor said the town is working on the issue of increasing the sand permit.

This week, Assistant Town Manager Heather B. Harper said that, so far, those efforts have been futile.

“It is my understanding that the town has asked regulators many times about an expansion of the beach nourishment template, and we have heard a resounding no,” she said. “The permit application process would take several years, and we do not expect a favorable response.”

She said that the existing template requires environmental monitoring, and if no adverse impacts are seen, an expansion could be considered in the future.

The town is hopeful about the combination of dredging from the canal and Scusset Beach, and Ms. Harper said that if the Army Corps is approved to perpetually deposit dredge material from its regular canal dredgings, the dunes will become much more resilient over time.


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