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Following a period of three storms in quick succession that caused extensive damage to seawalls, beaches and property, the Marshfield Board of Selectmen has approved a comprehensive beach management plan for the town’s six public beaches.
The plan provides a framework for maintaining the beaches as both recreational and protective resources for the town far into the future, and identifies action items for the town, as well as some already in place.
The town worked with Woods Hole Group on the management plan for the past year, having previously worked with the group on a hazard mitigation plan. Development of the plan included public outreach in the form of an online survey.
“It’s required of cities and towns on the coast,” said Town Administrator Michael Maresco. “If you’re not doing this and you have these violent storms like this spring, the seawalls can be easily undermined.”
The plan focuses on beach nourishment – the process of replacing sand after it’s lost to the ocean. The sand serves as an important barrier and an anchor for seawalls and coastal properties against damaging waves. When sand is depleted, like it was this past March, it often needs to be replaced.
“Beach nourishment is the first line of defense against rising sea levels,” Maresco said. “It’s a tool to keep the water back and calm the waves. Along seawalls, the sand acts as a buffer.”
Sand is dredged for replenishment.
“That material is coming from right out there in the ocean,” Maresco said. “It matches up. The sand has a tendency to be darker initially, but it lightens.”
The town has to work with residents and state and federal agencies as part of the permitting process to dredge. In order to use public funds for dredging, there has to be a public benefit, such as access, so the federal government requires easements.
“We recently had a public meeting about access and dredge material,” Maresco said. “Residents from areas where beach nourishment would be beneficial were supportive.”
A number of town departments will work together to implement the plan, including the Conservation Commission, town planner, Planning Board and Department of Public Works.
The town is facing $10 million to $15 million in seawall repairs, as well as other infrastructure damage and debris removal, from the destructive storms this March alone. The town is looking into state and federal grants to help mitigate the costs.