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Sandwich Residents Call Erosion Plan for Town Neck Beach a ‘Band-aid Solution’

Salt Marsh Road Erosion
Eve Zuckoff
/
A home on Salt Marsh Road that overlooks Springhill Beach in Sandwich is damaged beyond repair after a February 2021 storm.

Dozens of Sandwich residents are calling the Army Corps of Engineers’ plan to prevent erosion caused by the jetties along the Cape Cod Canal a “Band-aid” solution that falls short of addressing long-term problems.

On Tuesday evening, the Army Corps of Engineers solicited public comments on its plan to dump 388,000 cubic yards of sand onto Town Neck Beach to protect waterfront homes and beaches that have suffered from rapid erosion. The $12.5 million project is expected to begin in fall 2022.

During the Zoom call, several residents spoke of watching erosion in the area—particularly along Springhill Beach—rapidly increase over the past decade, and asked about building hard structures like seawalls to protect their oceanfront homes.

“Sand is your best bet,” explained Mike Riccio, study manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers New England District. “Once you put in hard structures, you’re going to be increasing the rate of erosion.”

Over a foot of shoreline is being lost at Town Neck Beach each year, and roughly 78 percent of the erosion is attributable to the jetties, according to a report released by the corps last October.

The corps’ report and recommendations to remedy the erosion have been in the works since 2006, and town officials are hopeful federal funding will soon be sought.

While the plan is short-term, said resident John Juros, it’s at least a start.

“I think the corps has done an incredible job,” Juros said. “We’d all love to get that first slug of sand, and we all know it’s a Band-aid and they know it’s a Band-aid, and we need to encourage them to think about a longer-term thing.”

Questions remain about maintenance: a one-time sand dump on Town Neck Beach will provide the coast with less than a decade of protection, before continued erosion, storms, and other impacts of climate change are expected to wipe out nearly all of it again.

“I definitely appreciate this new solution,” said town resident Stephen Lake. “It’s a great start, but if we don’t fix it, if we don’t do some kind of a long-term solution,” he warned, “our children won’t have Sandwich to live in, and we won’t have the beach.”

Additional public comments can be emailed no later than Saturday, April 3, to Michael.S.Riccio@usace.army.mil or sent to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District, Planning Division, (attention Michael Riccio), 696 Virginia Road, Concord, MA 01742-2751. The report will then be revised and sent to the Army Corps North Atlantic Division for final approval.

“This isn’t a perfect solution,” said Town Planner Bud Dunham, “but it’s the best we can do for now.”