Town Neck Beach Fill Area

A slide from a recent PowerPoint presentation shows where sand needs to be deposited along Town Neck Beach.

The Sandwich Board of Selectmen Thursday, October 8, heard the music of words they have awaited for years: “The canal directly and significantly contributes to the erosion of the Sandwich shoreline.”

It is official.

That was the conclusion of the US Army Corps of Engineers’ long-awaited 111 Study that was presented to the selectmen by Michael Riccio, project manager for the Army Corps’ New England District.

During the lengthy presentation, Mr. Riccio outlined the many areas of study the Army Corps looked into and gave specific numbers to illustrate the problems and the proposed solution.

For example, the Army Corps—with help from the Woods Hole Group—found that Town Neck Beach has lost 782,000 cubic yards of sand over the past 50 years and, if no steps are taken to preserve and renourish the beach, another 900,000 cubic yards would be lost over the next 50 years.

That amounts to the loss of 1.3 feet of beach per year, Mr. Riccio said, adding that the erosion has been “more aggressive over the past few years.”

The Corps looked at several possible solutions, including placing notches in the existing jetty to change the flow of sand; shortening the jetty; lengthening the stone groins along Town Neck; installing a bypass system that would directly bring sand from an area of richer sand deposits; and the installation of coir envelopes along the shore.

But the costs, feasibility and effectiveness of those alternatives did not justify the effort, Mr. Riccio said.

As a result, the Corps settled on a recommendation that $12.5 million worth of sand be deposited on Town Neck Beach.

That 388,000 cubic yards of sand would be dredged from a site just off Scusset Beach—a “borrow” site was approved by the Army Corps late last year.

The report did not address ongoing maintenance of the dune because it was “beyond the scope of the 111 Study,” Mr. Riccio said.

But the 388,000 cubic yards of sand will greatly improve the health of the dune, Mr. Riccio and Kurt Bosma of the Woods Hole Group have said.

“We wanted to get something done,” Mr. Riccio said.

Mr. Riccio said it remains unclear whether the Army Corps will help maintain the beach’s dune by agreeing to regularly deposit sand after every routine dredging of the Cape Cod Canal.

He said, however, that he hopes the Army Corps will look at the periodic dredging and distributing sand on Town Neck as an ongoing “regional sediment management project.”

“As much as we’d like to see it, this report covers only initial construction,” Mr. Riccio said.

There are some risks ahead for the renourishment project, the Army Corps spokesman said.

They include difficulty in obtaining permits from environmental regulators to dredge so much sand from Scusset Beach and obtaining easements from shoreline property owners, Mr. Riccio said.

“We recognize that the problem will continue to exist and [the report] will look at options for the long term,” Mr. Riccio has said.

Specifically, the final draft of the 111 Study acknowledged that the jetty—which is owned by the Army Corps—caused hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of sand to be diverted from Town Neck Beach.

The $12.5 million—which is the maximum the Army Corps can pay the town for this project—would just about cover the cost of “borrowing,” or dredging, the 388,000 cubic yards of sand from Scusset and delivering it to Town Neck, officials have said.

The Woods Hole Group, the town’s beach consultant, has said the town needs more than 450,000 cubic yards of sand to bring Town Neck Beach back to health.

Mr. Riccio said that at the end of the month, the public will be invited to review the 111 Study document and make comments and suggestions. After the public comment period, the report will be revised and forwarded to the Army Corps’ North Atlantic Division for final approval.

Final approval is expected by the end of the calendar year, and then the project will enter the design and implementation phase, Mr. Riccio said.

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