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Science & Environment

Outer Cape Towns Work Together On Coastal Management Plan

Eve Zuckoff
Erosion on the National Seashore on May 9, 2020.

In a first-of-its-kind project, the four outer Cape towns are developing a joint coastal management plan. 


The work in Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro and Provincetown could result in cost savings, larger beach nourishment projects, and more protected and resilient coastal infrastructure, according to project managers. 

“We have these four towns and we want to think about them like one town, just in terms of shoreline management” said Mark Borelli, a coastal geologist from the Center for Coastal studies who’s leading the project. 


Over the last year, Borelli and his team have been working to map where barrier beaches, salt marshes, tidal flats, coastal dunes, beaches, and bluffs are throughout the four towns on the Cape Cod Bay side. 


“I think in sand,” Borelli said during a public Zoom meeting.


They’ve also been considering what’s eroding the most, where the coast is armored, what management strategies are already in place, and who owns what coastal land. The information has been compiled into a “comprehensive database.”


The towns were awarded a $115,000 grant by the Massachusetts office of Coastal Zone Management for the first phase of the project, which is coming to an end. It’s expected to be completed over multiple phases. 


Climate change has already changed the coast over the last few decades, Borelli said, and he hopes this "consistent, complimentary" framework will contribute to resillience-building in the region. 


“These natural processes: sea level rise, storms, and all the things that shape the shoreline don’t really care about municipal boundaries,” he said, “so the goal is to figure out how we can do this better if we do it together.” 


Next steps in the project include hosting workshops for town staff, creating an inventory of low-lying roads and infrastructure, and, finally, establishing a management framework based on shoreline resources for all four towns.