GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

February 7, 2013

Rockport, state eye seawall options

By James Niedzinski
Staff Writer

---- — 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.

Kathryn Glenn, the regional coordinator with CZM, said a plan for the whole area needs to be created involving the beach, the seawall and the land behind it.

“Their protection depends on how well the beach is protected,”

Along those lines, another option by CZM staff was to look into how sediment nourishment and relocation might help Long Beach and prevent further erosion.

Ward Talbot, a longtime resident of Long Beach, said he has seen the contour Long Beach can change overnight. He also noted the marshes behind Long Beach have rising water levels when the waves do hit, in addition to causing damage to Thatcher Road.

Officials agreed about the need for a feasibility study that would measure the effect of sediment nourishment and transport systems, adding and relocating sand along the beach to prevent erosion.

Haney said that, if the seawall is repaired, it would likely have to be done oin conjunction with beach restoration efforts.

Department of Public Works Director Joe Parisi said an article for a sediment transport system feasibility study would hopefully make its way onto the Annual Town Meeting warrant.

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at jniedzinski@gloucestertimes.com.