The view looking up from Sagamore Beach reveals a substantial amount of erosion that is encroaching on at least five beachfront homes on Indian Trail. The sandy hillside alternates between scrubby vegetation and bare spots with ground that is sliding to the beach below.
Tuesday night, the Bourne Board of Selectmen granted five homeowners on Indian Trail a temporary license, allowing them access to the beach to have work done to control the hillside erosion. The temporary license was okayed pending approval of the project by the Bourne Conservation Commission. But Bourne Conservation Agent Brendan C. Mullaney said yesterday that he has serious reservations about the project.
“I’m not sure people fully understand the size and scope of this project,” Mr. Mullaney said.
He explained that the project involves using boulders to construct a 550-foot long wall that would stretch 22 feet up the hillside. The entire wall would be on land given to the conservation commission back in 2005, he said.
“It is in the care and custody of the conservation commission,” he said.
He said that while he is not the decision-maker on the matter, it is his opinion that the conservation commission needs to review all the applicable material regarding the project to make a determination on how it can move forward.
“No one wants to see the structural integrity of a home threatened,” he said. He added that a coastal engineer is reviewing the project to determine if what is being proposed will be effective, if it will have a negative impact on other homes, and what possible effects it might have on the beach.
Mr. Mullaney added that even if this project was being done on private property, there is a long list of requirements that would need to be satisfied before the conservation commission could give its approval.
“This is a massive structure on an embankment that has been eroding for decades, if not centuries,” he said. He said that the conservation commission would need “a lot more information so they can make the right decision.”
Local attorney J. Ford O’Connor appeared before selectmen Tuesday night representing the five homeowners. Mr. O’Connor told the board that he was seeking temporary access to the beach because the work cannot be done from the top of the bank.
He pointed out the severity of the damage on the hillside leading down to the beach. He said that the bank has lost a significant amount of vegetation, and at this point, the properties are only six to 16 feet from the edge.
“Every time it rains, they are losing more and more property,” he said.
Mr. Ford said that the plan is to do the work as quickly as possible and not impact the summer beach traffic.
“We’re ready to go tomorrow if we get permitted,” he said.
Donald J. Perry of Pinnacle Site Contractors in Sagamore Beach and Buzzards Bay has been contracted by the homeowners to do the work on the embankment. In an e-mail response to how the project will be done, Mr. Perry said that those details “will be determined in consultation with the conservation commission.”
Mr. Mullaney said that he is trying to set up a meeting with Mr. Ford for sometime next week to discuss his concerns with the project.
In March of last year, the town granted Pinnacle a temporary access easement that allowed the company to construct a stone revetment and take measures to control erosion at the rear of nine homes on Sagamore and Clark roads in Sagamore. Last year’s winter storms and spring rains resulted in eroded hillside conditions that threatened the homes. Selectmen approved the temporary access to Pinnacle under an emergency certification granted by the Bourne Conservation Commission.
Last summer, the conservation commission gave approval for five homes along Phillips Road in Sagamore Beach to repair storm damage done to their beachfront properties. That work was done by LEC Environmental Consultants, with offices in Cataumet, Plymouth, Wakefield, Worcester and Rindge, New Hampshire. Approval was given in July and the work completed last fall.
Selectman Peter J. Meier asked how long the project might take. Mr. Ford said that similar work had been done and completed by Memorial Day and the expectation was that this could be done before then.
Selectman Donald E. (Jerry) Ellis asked where the contractors would access the beach. Mr. Ford said it would be at one of the town’s public beach parking lots. Mr. Ellis then asked if the property owners would agree to repair any damage done to the parking lot and/or the beach. Mr. Ford assured the board that the homeowners were doing everything at their own expense, including repairing any damage.
“If you want to make that a condition, we have no problem with that,” Mr. Ford said.
Selectmen unanimously approved a motion to grant the temporary license allowing beach access, dependent upon approval of the homeowner’s application by the conservation commission. The motion also included a Memorial Day completion date and that any and all damage done as a result of the work will be replaced by the developer at the homeowner’s expense.