Posted by: coastlinesproject | July 29, 2016

Plum Island; Temporary solution to erosion.

Chapter 33


Serendipity on the Seashore?


July 22, 2016



It turned out that the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation owned the No-Name Beach, and they had decided that NETCO’s half a million dollar temporary structure was too expensive and not temporary enough to protect Northern Reservation Terrace.


The structure had been conceived after a February storm had scared the pants off city and state officials. At the time, it looked like the state would have to build something to last long enough for the Army Corps of Engineers to come up with a long-term solution to fix the erosion.


But, nature was way ahead of the Engineers. She had already disheveled the jetty so much that up to an acre of sand 4 feet deep had been flowing through the structure every month during the past winter. If this continued, the jetty would settle another few feet allowing enough sand to flow through the jetty to reverse the erosion and rebuild the riverside beach.


To their credit, the Department of Conservation and Recreation had turned down the original plan and hired the local firm GZA to design a more appropriate short-term solution. They had already determined that temporary really only meant one, possibly two, more winters, before nature could take over and finish her work to make Northern Reservation Terrace safe again.


But one of the places where all that eroded sand had been collecting was under the Captain’s Lady’s docks at the end of the point. But the enterprising Captain Christos Charos had spent several weeks using a lawnmower sized pump to dredge a slurry of sand from beneath his docks and out through a 4-inch diameter hose to dewater in shallow ponds he had dug with his earth excavator.


The operation had gone extremely smoothly. The sand was so coarse it quickly dewatered making it available to be trucked to Newbury’s nearby Olga Way. Now there was a 10-foot high, hundred eighty-foot long, artificial sand dune sitting rather incongruously in the empty lot.


But the operation had run into Captain Charos’ busy season so he had to suspend the operation to operate his fleet of fishing and whale watching boats. But the project had shown that there was an almost inexhaustible supply of good clean sand to build an artificial sand dune.


Here was where nature’s serendipity came in. About the only thing that the residents of Northern Reservation Terrace really needed was a stabilized sand dune to get them through the coming winter. It could be much like the 22-foot high, hundred mile long sand dune that the Army Corps of Engineers was building to protect the New Jersey coastline, not for one, but for the next 50 years.


So just down the beach you had a source of clean, cheap sand that was so inexhaustible that George’s docks had filled in again only a few days after he had stopped dredging. Rather than trucking all that sand to an empty lot in Newbury, why not use it to fill vegetative fiber rolls, or even extend the pipe and truck line to build a sacrificial sand dune to protect Northern Reservation Terrace?


It would provide a temporary resting place for the sand as it continued its journey from the beach, to the ocean, to the dunes and back again. All we would be doing is helping the sand rest for a bit, before continuing to cycle through this complex of interlocking ecosystems.




Read more in William Sargent’s latest book, Plum Island; 4,000 Years on a Barrier Beach, available in local bookstores and at






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