Federal funds would fill gaps in Plymouth sandbar

PLYMOUTH – Federal funding will carry out long overdue repairs to the backbone of Plymouth’s sand barrier.

The $25.2 million credit will allow the Army Corps of Engineers to rebuild thousands of feet of the stone levee which stabilized Plymouth Long Beach for more than a century.

The works, which are not expected to start until at least next year, will ensure continued access to recreation for the many people who flock to the sandy beach each summer. Perhaps most importantly, the repairs will save crumbling sections of seawall that provide vital protection for the downtown waterfront.

The project would rebuild approximately 2,350 feet of the seawall near the middle of the Three Mile Beach in the area known as Day Parking. It would extend from just south of the Day Parking Lot, where repairs were completed in 1971, to the Crossover to the north.

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As a result of coastal storms, this section of the sea wall has been compromised and does not offer protection against submergence at high tide. On calm days, water can fill the parking lot. During the northeast, visitors to Stephens Field on the downtown waterfront can watch and see the waves crashing onto the beach.

The section is currently home to two summer cottages, which have seen the fury of nature in recent years. Erosion has exposed the top of a septic tank at one of the cottages. Cedar shingles tell the rest of the story. A new cabana re-coating marks the culmination of the surge in the ocean after recent storms that battered directly onto the beach and into the harbour.

After a long winter of storms, the Day Parking section of Plymouth Long Beach is often flooded at high tide.

It is starkly different from the section of seawall that stretches north from the Crossover, where the stone revetment has been overtaken by healthy dunes and is barely visible in the sand that arches between the houses and the beach.

History of Plymouth Beach Seawall

The seawall was built in 1901, three years after the Portland Gale of 1898 completely flattened the beach, obliterating the beach pavilion at the point. It is made up of a nearly three-mile rock face, with stone aprons front and back to prevent erosion.

The weather and tide have taken their toll on a regular basis, with the southern part of the beach being the most affected by erosion. The northern end, closest to the point, actually sees sand accretion over time.

The section of the Long Beach Seawall south of the daytime parking lot has been rebuilt and is not a threat of failure.

The city rebuilt the south end of the seawall just below Day Parking in 1971. The city has been working on plans to continue repairs to the Crossover since the mid-1990s, when the state required a reloading project from the beach to mitigate the erosion caused. by the dike.

When the Army Corps, owner of the seawall, refused, the city stepped up and approved the $3 million loan for beach supply. But the project was still dragging on.

In the early 2000s, the Army Corps reconsidered and the project was moving through the permitting process when several landowners on the beach appealed permits for the project. When the city decided not to fight the appeals, the corps again backed down.

Years later, the city resumed conversations with the corps and began updating its plans. For the past four years, local officials have worked with the corps to collect data and design plans, all the while demanding money. The effort included working with Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) to secure funding for the recent dredging of Plymouth Harbor.

The federal government has earmarked $25 million to repair a 2,350ft stretch of seawall on Plymouth Long Beach.

This year’s federal budget provided $300,000 to complete engineering and permitting. The federal legislative delegation announced last week the appropriation of $25.2 million for the next budget.

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City participation in the project

David Gould, the city’s director of marine and environmental affairs, said several officials — federal, state and local — have been working on the proposal since they started working in government.

He said he believes the city would have prevailed if it had chosen to fight the appeal of beach residents years ago and, given the deterioration of the beach since then, would almost certainly fight off any opposition. , if she surfaced, to the new plan.

Gould noted that the sea wall not only protects the beach, but also protects the city’s waterfront and would be particularly valuable protection against rising sea levels.

“I think this not only protects people’s long-term access to the beach, but it will stabilize this part of the beach and continue to protect downtown Plymouth from the storms and damage that happens every autumn. , winter and spring,” he said. “That’s a lot for natural habitat and recreation, but storm damage protection for Plymouth city center is truly invaluable.”

City crews are working to rebuild a section of Plymouth Long Beach that is frequently damaged by storms.

Cases in progress

The city is currently feeding and repairing winter damage in the daytime parking area with sand and pavers to prevent washouts, but the job is an expensive band-aid approach.

The $25.2 million for the restoration project is an Army Corps appropriation, meaning the city will not administer the funds or have any say in how they are used. The corps will put the project out to competition once the design work is complete.

Gould said he couldn’t speak for the agency on when the project would be completed, but said it would likely be during the off-season to minimize its impact on public access and that it wouldn’t wouldn’t be this spring or this summer.

The timing of other projects may play a role.

The New England District of the Army Corps of Engineers has received more than $273 million in funding for projects and studies throughout New England as a result of two recently enacted laws – the Infrastructure Investment and Employment and the Disaster Relief Supplementary Appropriations Act 2022.

The Port of Plymouth received $300,000 for plans and specifications for the emergency seawall reconstruction in the current federal budget. Beth Gosselin, spokesperson for the Army Corp of Engineers, said the agency will use $300,000 from this year’s federal budget to coordinate state and federal resource agencies and finalize the engineering and design phase. of the project.

The $25.2 million is included in the federal budget for fiscal year 2023, which begins Oct. 1. This money will be used for the actual reconstruction.

“As you can imagine, with this influx of money for all of New England, we need to assess each project included in the bill and consider the urgency of the situation, the state of development of each project and the current level of funding, as well as efforts and resources. necessary to complete efforts such as cooperative agreements, coordination with resource agencies, permits, engineering and design, environmental windows, to name a few. After this assessment, we will prioritize and plan accordingly,” Gosselin said in an email.

‘Therefore, we cannot provide a specific timetable for the actual works, but we can tell you that it will not be this year and we do not anticipate any impact on public beach access.’

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Legislators step in

The city credited the congressional delegation for securing the funding.

In a statement, members of the delegation said the funds are a welcome investment in the region and the country’s infrastructure.

“Our ports and waterways define our state, sustain our economy and bring our communities to life, but we need to make investments to protect them from the growing impacts of climate change,” Markey said. “This multimillion investment in our Commonwealth water infrastructure will make our communities safer, more resilient and more prosperous in the years to come.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said she was happy to join the delegation in securing the funding and applauds the Army Corp for including it in its work plan.

“Updating our infrastructure will help us grow our economy, build our resilience and improve our public safety – I am committed to seeing these important projects move forward,” Warren said.

U.S. Representative William Keating (D-Bourne) said the funds will protect Plymouth from flooding. “Now, thanks to the leadership of the Biden administration, these necessary projects will move even closer to completion after years of waiting for funding,” Keating said.


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Sandy A. Greer