GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

January 3, 2013

Rockport officials plan next seawall workshop

Town waiting for FEMA report on wave height

By James Niedzinski
Staff Writer

---- — ROCKPORT — The Department of Public Works commissioners met last night to discuss restoration of the Long Beach seawall and another public planning workshop is in the works.

The seawall has seen better days, according to Public Works Director Joe Parisi.

“It’s in pretty bad shape,” he said. “It has failed in the past.”

The seawall, which is about 3,350 feet long, was constructed in the 1930s. Additions and improvements were made in the 1950s after a major collapse. It protects about 150 summer cottages and 45 acres of sand dunes from incoming waves.

Depending on what options town officials choose, wall improvements could cost about $13 million, Parisi said.

“We hope to seek as much grant money as possible,” Parisi said. “There is also a meeting coming up with (state) Sen. Bruce Tarr; he is presenting legislation to fund seawall and dam repair.”

In 2010, the town awarded $100,000 to the Newburyport-based Vine Associates, a division of GZA GeoEnvironmental Inc. During a presentation given in May last year, Cheryl Coviello, an engineer with Vine Associates, provided several options for seawall repair and reconstruction.

The options included replacing the 1931 and 1958 sections of the wall, replacing the walkways, improving the drainage system behind the entire wall, and reconstructing the stone apron that runs along the bottom of the seawall.

Coviello said the height of the wall, from the sand to the top, can vary anywhere between 6 and 11 feet, depending on the sand level.

Coviello met with DPW commissioners again in September 2012 to further discuss the seawall status.

During the meeting, she proposed the wall’s height should be extended roughly 3 feet.

More recently, Parisi said he is waiting for FEMA to release its finalized wave height analysis numbers. These numbers would show whether or not larger, more powerful waves are expected to hit the shores of Long Beach.

Parisi could not give any official numbers because they are not public information, but according to rough preliminary estimates, FEMA officials expect a potential increase in wave height for the Long Beach area, he said.

“We want to hear more about what their numbers indicate, so we can make decisions about the seawall,” he said.

Ward Talbot, a longtime resident of Long Beach and member of the Long Beach Improvement Association, said he was concerned about the speed of the project.

He added that there are inherent difficulties and time constraints when the seawall comes before town officials; moving information from one meeting to another can be a very time consuming process.

Talbot said the FEMA wave height results are a key aspect of future seawall plans.

“You can’t blame the DPW commissioners for being reluctant to make a final decision,” he said.

No date has been given yet, but Parisi said he hopes a final plan for the seawall will be approved in about four months, in time for the next town meeting.

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