2012-11-15 / Front Page

Options discussed on how to repair Mackerel Cove

Hurricane Sandy left town beach in ruins
BY MARGO SULLIVAN

Town officials want to hear advice from the Conservation Commission before starting work to restore the barrier beach at Mackerel Cove.

When the newly elected Town Council meets in December, the conservation panel will present a five-point plan that they formulated before Hurricane Sandy struck, according to Chairwoman Carol Trocki.

Meanwhile, the Public Works Department will bring in a bulldozer to flatten the big pile of sand the hurricane left to keep it from blowing into Sheffield Cove, per the commission’s input. The dune at Mackerel Cove could likely be rebuilt by March, Trocki said.

Hurricane Sandy blew away the dunes at the Mackerel Cove beach, the commissioners said, and they predicted the same scenario the next time a major storm hits.

“I was speechless,” Commissioner Michael Brown said when he saw how the hurricane had shredded the beach.

The good news is, according to Trocki, money from the federal government’s emergency management agency will help bring back the beach. Also, the state will rebuild the road, which was also damaged in the hurricane.

The Conservation Commission’s plan, which originally called for battling erosion by widening the middle of the beach, is based on recommendations from Jamestown resident and state geologist John Boothroyd, who made a site visit on Aug. 22. As summarized later by Brown at the panel’s Sept. 13 meeting, Boothroyd had suggested “getting the cars off the beach” by moving the parking spaces to allow vegetation to grow and give the storm surge a way to flow back into the cove. Specifi- cally, he said, town officials should scuttle parking spaces at the east and west ends of the beach. He also suggested building a berm at the west end of the beach, raking the beach by tractor, and using seaweed and other material to build up a dune.

But Commissioner Patrick Driscoll said the commissioners also might expand on the original plan now that the hurricane has altered the area, including the state road.

“This may be a moment to consider re-engineering the road a little bit,” Driscoll said. “We need a road there.” He said that the existing road has some “engineering issues that exacerbate our problem.”

Given the fact the road now needs some reconstruction, he said, this might be an opportunity to move the road or at least widen it 5 feet along the Sheffield Cove side to allow parking and compensate for the spaces lost at Mackerel Cove.

Also, the section of Sheffield Cove across from Mackerel Cove is full of rubble due to the original road construction. That material is acting like a berm, Driscoll said. Flattening that area and allowing sand to collect in Sheffield Cove might create a more natural system.

“There are lots of things that could be done, and now’s the time to do them,” he said.

Trocki disagreed that re-engineering the road would solve the erosion problem. She based her opinion on comments from Boothroyd.

Boothroyd had indicated the “crest of the dune” was actually at Sheffield Cove. Mother Nature wants to move the sand over there, she said. Sand that goes over the barrier into Sheffield Cove is effectively lost and will not come back to Mackerel Cove beach in anyone’s lifetime.

“Everytime we have a storm, that barrier is going to get blown out and require bulldozers to put it back,” Trocki said.

Commissioner Ted Smayda said the plan seemed like “throwing money down a rat hole.”

Trocki agreed, but if the town wants a beach at Mackerel Cove, the Public Works Department will have to continue moving the barrier back.

“As long as that road is stationary and we want Mackerel Cove to be a beach, we have to keep moving sand back,” she said.

Brown doubted the state would agree to move the road, and Driscoll acknowledged that might be the case.

“But at least mention some remediation,” Driscoll suggested. Trocki agreed.

“We’ve got to put all that sand back on Mackerel Cove in the short term,” she said. “There should be some longer term planning, too.”

At the commission’s next meeting, she suggested, the panel should discuss their suggestions for protecting the dunes at Mackerel

Cove and also delve into the “long-term vision.”

In other business, the panel voted to go forward with a grant application to build an elevated boardwalk at the right-of-way off Beavertail Road leading to Hull Cove.

The application does not obligate the town to do the project. If Jamestown wins the grant, the Town Council would make a decision about whether or not to commit to the project, Trocki said.

But earlier, the Coastal Resources Management Council ordered Jamestown to restore the Hull Cove trail to its original condition after an unknown person clearcut the coastal buffer and illegally widened the trail.

Brown came across a trail restoration grant for $100,000, which would pay for almost the entire job to install a 480-foot long, 4-foot wide boardwalk. An earlier Conservation Commission had prepared a grant proposal, and Brown said he updated the information.

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