The Cape Cod Connection
February 24, 2016
Bud Dunham was elated when he received the Army Corps of Engineers Federal Determination of Interest. The town manager of Sandwich had been waiting for this twenty-page document for years. It was the first time the Corps had ever admitted that the jetties at the north end of the Cape Cod Canal had anything to do with erosion in Sandwich.
It was a significant first step. It meant that the Corps would initially spend $100,000 to study the situation and come up with a long-term solution. If that so-called Section 111 study found that the jetties were definitely at fault, the Corps could come up with up to $10 Million to rebuild the beach or alter the jetty to stop the problem.
Little did Bud know that he had also just made the residents of Plum Island ecstatic. It meant there was a road through the Corp’s tangle of red tape to finally get a weir installed in their jetty.
In fact it appeared to be a slam-dunk. The report stated that Sandwich’s erosion of the Spring Hill and Town Hill neighborhoods had increased from 2 to 3 feet a year. to 6.5 feet a year. Plum Island’s North Point had gone from actually growing a foot a year, to eroding 150 a year just since the Merrimack River’s South Jetty had been repaired in 2014.
So Plum Island should be on a similar trajectory as Sandwich. The Corps has already agreed to send a team of engineers up from their modeling lab in Vicksburg, Mississippi to conduct a DOTS Study which will probably find that repairing the jetty has caused the runaway erosion on Northern Reservation Terrace. Plus that area contained the Federal Coast Guard facilities, the state depuration lab, over 250 private homes, and Newburyport’s famously finicky system of sewerage mains.
It certainly seemed that Plum Island would be eligible for a Section 111 study, which could be completed by 2018. And this in turn would make Plum Island eligible for up to $10 Million dollars to fix the problem without Congressional approval. That meant that the Corps might be able to start installing a weir in the jetty by as early as 2020.
And hopefully the sandbag seawall suggested by NETCO would protect the houses long enough so that the Corps could fix the problem and North Point could start growing again.
William Sargent’s latest book, Plum Island; 4,000 Years on a Barrier Beach is available in local bookstores and through Amazon.com.