New England's “sand wars” continue to simmer as communities debate who should pay to protect the New England coast from the ocean’s fury.
Newbury selectmen this week voted to buy $10,000 worth of sand from an inland source to help protect Plum Island’s buried water and sewer system against the ocean’s wrath. But selectmen also said homeowners in serious peril may take some of the sand the town is buying to protect their homes from the sea, according to a recent story in the Newburyport Daily News.
Meanwhile in Sandwich, frustrated residents are reaching deep into their own pockets to buy sand to protect their homes -- even as they claim the payments should be the federal government’s responsibility.
The two stories underscore just how complicated funding ocean protection can be as climate change causes sea levels to rise and storms carve out increasingly large chunks of the region’s coast.
I wrote about the advent of these fights last month. With no formal policy on how to protect homes – or even if they should be protected – a patchwork of disparate policies and stopgap measures are evolving. Some legislators want to use public dollars to protect homes and infrastructure along the coast while others say doing so is unfair to other taxpayers.
In Newbury, selectmen are worried that severe erosion that has hit the island could soon extend to buried sewer and water pipes. At the same time, town officials are sympathetic to nearby homeowners who are fighting with state officials for the right to protect their homes using sand scraped from the beach or by building more permanent sea-protection structures. The selectmen decided that some of the sand could be used for the most imperiled properties, according to the article.
In Sandwich, residents have had long-standing complaints that jetties built to keep sand out of the Cape Cod Canal are starving the dunes at Town Neck beach, according to a recent Cape Cod Times article. They want the town to ask the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to fix the problem, but say their pleas have not been acted upon.
These debates are sure to grow as sea levels rise and stormy seas continue to carve away the thin ribbon of sand protecting seaside homes in New England. Stay tuned.