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Maine coastal dunes lost 15 to 30 feet to erosion in January storms

Two people and dog walk by damaged and dangling dune vegetation roots at Crescent Beach State Park in Cape Elizabeth on Jan. 16

Posted on March 11, 2024

Coastal communities are looking for ways to restore their beaches and make them more resilient after two January storms eroded shorelines and demolished seawalls and piers.

Dunes up and down Maine’s coast lost anywhere from 15-to-30 feet to erosion, Peter Slovinksy, a marine geologist for the state’s Geological Survey said Friday.

Coastal municipalities should consider helping private property owners with dune restoration projects, he added.

“I don’t mean a property here, a property there and a property there,” he said Friday during a discussion hosted by the city of Saco and the Save Our Shores Saco Bay group. “Fifteen, 20 homeowners need to get together — and they have in a section of the shoreline — and restore their dune. Dune is what is going to be protecting those properties. Areas that had a higher dune and a wider dune did much better than areas that had a very low and narrow dune.”

York County wants to use the dredge that it purchased nearly two years ago to help nearby towns replenish their beaches with sand and restore coastal dunes that eroded during the January storms.

The county purchased the equipment with roughly $1.5 million in federal pandemic relief funds, but has been debating how best to operate it.

Commissioner Justin Chenette said the county is working with a consultant and would like to have the dredge in the water by the fall.

“Our shared goal, everyone’s goal in this room, everyone’s goal at the county level, is that the dredge will be operational in the water for the next dredge season,” Chenette said. “No one wants to delay that any further.”

Slovinksy said homeowners should also consider limiting footpaths — which became runways for flooding during the January storms — that lead from the beach to their property. Property owners might consider reforming the paths in a zig-zag shape or consolidating them as a way to protect against coastal erosion and flooding.


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