Scusset Erosion

This photograph of the east entrance of the Cape Cod Canal from the Enterprise files shows the buildup of sand on Scusset Beach behind the largest of the canal jetties.

Five months.

That’s how much longer we’ll all have to wait to get any hints about whether the federal government will take responsibility for the sad, sand-starved state of Sandwich’s beaches and the continued erosion of the coastline here.

The Army Corps of Engineers is in the midst of a study that is examining if the Cape Cod Canal jetties have interrupted the eastward flow of sand and sediment with the natural currents—preventing the sand from ever reaching Sandwich.

If the Corps finds that the federally owned jetties are the source of the problem, then it is obliged to make things right, for the long term. Once the draft is complete, then the Corps will conduct an internal review of the findings. This could take another six months.

The town—like most of us—is convinced the jetties are the roots of Sandwich’s sand sorrows and has hung its hopes high on this study’s findings.

If the Corps shrugs off the blame, the town is stuck. Finding a lasting solution to this problem is far beyond the town’s fiscal reach.

If nothing is done, wind-driven waves will one day pummel this barrier beach into submission and just wash it all out to sea.

The result would be a loss not only of the beach but also the Old Harbor Marsh—which would become a bay. There would also be extensive flooding of the surrounding low-lying neighborhoods.

This week, town hall staff drafted two letters about the perilous state of affairs along our coastline. One of the letters was to state officials asking for their political support for the release of $4 million worth of funding previously authorized in the 2014 Environmental Bond Bill. This money would be used to move sand trapped just off Scusset Beach on the other side of the canal by the jetties and move it to the Town Neck shoreline.

This is the very same sand that would have migrated to Town Neck naturally if it were not for the jetties.

The second, and arguably more important letter, was to federal officials asking that they support raising or removing the limit on spending relating to solutions presented in a 111 Study.

There is currently a $10 million overall cap on 111 spending. This is far from sufficient for Sandwich’s long-term needs.

Raising the 111 cap is not unprecedented. Most recently, in Maine, the feds agreed to fund up to $50 million to fix a coastal erosion problem created by the dredging and jetty construction at the mouth of the Saco River.

We hope these letters will generate the desired response. But we will have to wait and see.

We will also have to wait and see what the Army Corps finds with its study.

Five months.

It doesn’t seem like a long time, but with the winter storm season setting in, it could be a tough five months. We hope our beach can take the wait.

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