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Friday, July 19, 2013

Latest plans to control local beach erosion

By TIM FAULKNER/ News staff
NARRAGANSETT — Experimental and controversial beach protection barriers are being proposed for two stretches of South County beaches, including South Kingstown Town Beach, which was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy last October.

Discussions last week between the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) and South Kingstown planners resulted in a tentative agreement to allow unproven approaches to stop beach erosion, such as polyester-type bags filled with sand or stone.

The use of stone and concrete barriers, such as jetties and rip-rap, will not be permitted. A public hearing on the proposed changes will be held in August.

At the July 17 meeting of the CRMC, four South Kingstown officials supported the plan. “We’re all in agreement and we’re all happy,” Town Council President Ella Whaley said.

The area permitted for the experimental erosion covers a quarter-mile of Matunuck Beach Road, which includes the Ocean Mist bar and restaurant.

It ws agreed at a July 9 meeting between CRMC executive director Grover Fugate, South Kingstown town manager Stephen Alfred and town planner Vincent Murray to also include South Kingstown Town Beach and the Matunuck Beach Trailer Association.

The approved area of Misquamicut Beach in Westerly covers a half-mile of beachfront between 35 and 149 Atlantic Ave.

Both areas experienced high erosion rates in recent storms and over the years. Misquamicut Beach lost some 90 feet of shoreline between 1939 and 2004. Portions of Matunuck Beach and the town beach have lost between 75 and 250 feet of shoreline in the past 75 years, according to the CRMC. 

Several hundred feet of beachfront were also wiped out at South Kingstown Town Beach during Hurricane Sandy. Work is underway to move the beach pavilion 200 feet inland. The town also received approval from the CRMC to build a 200-foot sheet-pile wall with concrete along Matunuck Beach Road.

CRMC and environmentalists had opposed the use of stone barriers to control erosion. After the July 17 meeting, Jane Austin of Save The Bay said she would review the proposal and planned to submit comments for next month's public hearing.

Any new materials used for beach protection must first be approved by the CRMC. The new erosion measures are considered experimental and require approval to remain in place for longer than three years. Current acceptable beach control materials include biodegradable items such as burlap and natural fiber logs.