Town Asked To Sell Dredge Material To Nourish Private Beach

by William F. Galvin

HARWICH (5/25/06) - For years town officials have used sand from channel dredging projects to nourish public beaches. But in the search for much needed revenues, will sand be sold to the highest bidder? That is a question town officials may be wrestling with as Nantucket Sound beaches continue to erode. With property assessments along that shoreline running as much as $5 million or more, the need to protect that investment will come at a price. “The Seymours are interested in determining the steps that are required to obtain additional sand from the upcoming Wychmere Harbor dredging,” reads a letter from the Woods Hole Group, environmental consultants addressed to Harbormaster Thomas Leach.

The town is poised to dredge approximately 4,000 cubic yards from the Wychmere Harbor Channel to the west of Stone Horse Yacht Club and east of the Wychmere Harbor condominiums. Leach said dredge materials have primarily been used to nourish public beaches, but it has been placed in the past along malnourished private beaches. Leach said there are between seven and 10 beachfront neighborhood associations in town and his office often receives requests to have dredge materials placed on these beaches.

In fact, the sand dredged from the Wychmere Harbor Channel is scheduled to be placed on private beaches just east of Saquatucket Harbor entrance channel, including the beach of Stephen and Sharon Seymour. That is the plan that was approved by the conservation commission. Leach said sand from the channel was placed along that beach in the late 1980s or early 1990s. The board of selectmen has a policy to nourish public beaches first, before private beaches, Leach said. To that end, Coastal Engineering, Inc. of Orleans, which has been hired to do dredge permitting for the town, is working on a comprehensive maintenance dredge permit for all town harbors and beaches. In that permit, Leach said, is a request to allow placement of sand along public beaches at Julian Road and Jenkins Beach, a little further to the east. But the harbormaster said that permit will not be complete in time to use the dredge material coming from the Wychmere Harbor Channel. With a little luck that dredge project could be done in late June.

Lee L. Weishar, a senior scientist with the Wood Hole Group, wrote to Leach stating they are of the understanding there was consideration to dredge an additional 6,000 cubic yards from the Wychmere channel, but the town is facing funding limitations. “The Seymours are interested in determining the steps that need to be completed for them to make a contribution to obtain the additional 6,000 (cubic yards) of sand provided it would be deposited on the Seymour and the downdrift properties directly to the east,” Weishar informed the harbormaster.

The correspondence calculates the cost of the additional dredge project, at the $6.75 per cubic yard price for the county dredge, at $40,500. Weishar said similar arrangements have been put in place in the past and a special account for a specific dredge project was set up. Leach said a dredging gift account was set up in the past when Wychmere Harbor Club owner Dr. J. Richard Fennell sought to have material removed from along his dock at the edge of the channel at a time when a dredge project was taking place there. “We’re thinking about public dollars for public benefit,” Leach said of the Seymours offering to pay for the additional sand going to their beach. This is a decision that will rest with selectmen, the harbormaster said.

Leach said the Ayer’s Lane neighborhood association has just been granted permission to place trucked-in sand on the beach there. He said erosion is obvious up and down the shoreline. The town placed sand along the WahWahTaysee association beach a year and a half ago and it was so high “you couldn’t see the groin. Now it is gone.” There are only three areas where sand is accreting, Leach said, to the west of the Wychmere, Allen Harbor and Herring River jetties.

While selectmen have said in recent years they want to take care of public beaches first, a decision has to be made about putting money into a gift account and then paying for dredge projects. “They get a bargain for the sand and we get a deep channel out of the deal,” Leach said. “They understand how important it is. It makes the difference of having a beach to go to or not for the summer.”

This is something to look at as the Army Corps of Engineers has had its small harbor dredge program cut, impacting 170 channels in the Northeast. Cape and Island Harbormasters have sent a letter to Congress urging funds be restored. As the town looks for funds to provide services, Leach wondered if it is worth marketing dredge materials to offset the cost of dredging. He said the town wins, channels get dredged, but in the long run there could be an impact on public beaches. There would need to be a balance, Leach said.

Conservation Administrator John Chatham said the Seymour proposal has not been through the conservation commission. Chatham said he does not know what the dredge permit allows and it was his understanding the conservation approval was to clear a bump in the channel. The Seymours have been in a protracted battle with the town and the abutters to the east over a reconstructed jetty along their east property line. The jetty was reconstructed in 1997 and several years later neighbors challenged the reconstruction project as the Seymours sought a certificate of compliance. They argued the beach to the east of the jetty was severely starved by the new structure.

The commission ultimately determined a 46-foot section of the landward portion of the jetty was built without commission approval. That decision was appealed to the state department of environmental protection for a superseding order of conditions. It has been almost four years since a hearing was held and DEP has not issued a determination. “We’re in enforcement sensitive negotiations and can’t discuss where the talks are now,” Theresa Barao, public information officer for the Southeast Region of DEP said on Tuesday. “There are multiple facets and private lawsuits going on.”

Barao said she had heard the matter was in state Land Court, but could not confirm any outcome. She said her department’s role is similar but different as far as enforcement. Chatham said of the request to place sand on the abutting properties to the east, “some higher authority must have told them they have to put sand on the beach.”

Efforts on Tuesday to reach Weishar and the Seymours’ attorney, Glenn A. Wood of Rubin & Rudman, LLP, for a status report on litigation were unsuccessful.

Sailors try to catch the wind

By Matt Rice/
Friday, May 26, 2006 - Updated: 11:49 AM EST

With near-perfect conditions on the water, the Nauset High sailing team cruised to a 3-0 victory over the Harwich Rough Riders Monday at Saquatucket Harbor in Harwich.
    "I’m happy with the way this team is sailing," said Nauset head coach Warren Silver. "We’re a fairly young team, with only six of our 22 sailors seniors, but there’s some talent on this team.’
    Nauset (10-5) was led by its senior co-captains, skipper Pat Ryan and crew Haley Lindahl, who scored a pair of wins for the Warriors.
    According to Silver, both Ryan and Lindahl will continue to sail in college, with Ryan planning on attending Massachusetts Maritime Academy and Lindahl going to Hobart College.
    "Both schools have excellent, well-respected sailing programs and I’m sure they’ll both be very successful," Silver said.
    Seniors Neal Drake and Brianna Wall also sailed well for the Warriors.
    Harwich collected its first win on the season against 12 losses with a 3-1 victory over Falmouth Tuesday.
    "We’ve actually done a lot better lately," said Harwich coach John Dickson. "This team is learning a lot about sailing and having a good time.
    Two seniors led the way for the Rough Riders against Nauset: skipper Jessica Hewitt and crew Brian Boyle. Senior skipper Peter Sawyer and senior crew Mary Wesp also sailed well.
    Against Falmouth, Brendan McVickar notched a victory with Hewitt to start the scoring for the Rough Riders. Also scoring wins were Boyle and Gillian Smith, along with Sawyer and Wesp.
    Harwich swept the final heat, placing 1-2-3 to earn the victory.
    "We play in a tough league with a number of tough teams with a lot of sailing experience," said Dickson. "It’s just a higher level of racing when you have the experience that some of these other kids have. They have better tactics during the race. But we’ve done better lately. Last week, we lost to Chatham and D-Y, 3-1, but we sailed well against both, so we’re making improvements."
    The two teams, each sailing three boats, use a series of maneuvers and tactical position changes to not only finish the course the fastest, but also "trap" their opponents into making a mistake, giving the team’s other boats another advantage.
    A trap is described as "going around a turn-buoy a certain way as to slow your opponent down, killing their speed and momentum." Nauset was clearly the better team at not only positioning themselves to make a move, but also trapping Harwich into making mistakes around the buoys.
    According to Dickson, at one time, the Harwich sailing program was one of the best on the state.
    "In our nine-year history, we were considered one of the top 10 teams in New England for about four years. But people graduate, and we haven’t been able to replace that experience yet," he said.
    The Harwich and Nauset teams will participate in the Cape and Islands League Championships June 3 at the Chatham Yacht Club.

Park at Saquatucket Harbor in Harwich Port Dedicated to Nauset Dinghy Sailor Asst. Harbormaster Frank Kunz (left) and Asst. Harbormaster Alex Sherr flank a rock dedicating the Alex B. Haas Memorial Park at Saquatucket Harbor
    On Sunday, the Alex B. Haas Memorial Park, a small grassy area over looking Saquatucket Harbor, was dedicated in front of more than a 100 who had gathered to pay tribute to the Brewster resident and 2005 Nauset High grad.
    Haas, a member of the Warriors’ sailing and swimming teams, was killed in a single-car accident in Harwich last summer.
    Harwich assistant sailing coach and Harbormaster, Tom Leach, knew Haas well. Leach was at son Tom's graduation at Tufts and wrote a piece that assistant harbormaster and Mass Maritime cadet
Alex Sherr read during the dedication of the new park.
    "I consider myself very fortunate to have sailed with Alex on Chinook (a sloop based at Saquatucket Harbor) and got to know his determination for aspiring as a skilled sailor who touched many," he said. "(He) worked and sailed from this harbor, and now he has a permanent home here for which this park is now dedicated in his name."
    Leach also thanked members of the community who made the memorial park come to reality.
    "Our sincerest appreciation goes to Neil Tomkinson, Pricilla Eastman, Phil and Donna Smith and Cheryl Poore for believing in the need for an Alex Haas Memorial Park," he said.
    Haas, an accomplished sailor, was planning on attending Massachusetts Maritime Academy.
    A rock bearing his name and engraved with a 420-type dinghy he used to sail, now welcomes visitors to the park.