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February 7, 2013

Rockport, state eye seawall options

ROCKPORT — Town officials from the Department of Public works are now weighing their options on how to protect about 150 cottages that sit behind the Long Beach seawall from storm and wave damage.

Members of the state’s office of Coastal Zone Management met Tuesday with Rockport’s DPW and staff members to explore possible solutions and discuss how to repair the aging seawall, which would cost an estimated $13 million.

The erosion of Long Beach is also apart of the problem, as DPW Board of Commissioners member Jim Gardener cited anecdotal evidence the beach has eroded anywhere from two to six feet in recent years. Rebecca Haney, a coastal geologist with the Coastal Management Zone, said the beach has become so eroded it is almost incapable of sustaining a seawall.

Gardener questioned the benefit of improving the seawall and its effectiveness, adding that any such project’s anticipated $13 million price tag would likely be out of the town’s reach. Gardener said there are no official wave analysis numbers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency yet, but wave heights could increase as much as 10 feet beyond the existing seawall.

“Realistically, there is no way we can prevent water from going over,” Haney said.

One option presented by CZM staff members is too raise the elevation of the houses themselves and allow water to flow underneath them.

Haney said that, as water travels around houses, it creates channels that could further damage a second row of cottages, and eventually flow into the marshes and roads behind the beach. She said there are FEMA grants available to offset the cost of raising the homes, an additional incentive would be the insurance rates on the houses could drop significantly as a result.

Haney said coastal areas in Quincy and Scituate have had success in flood mitigation and prevention by elevating houses.

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