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Matunuck Coastal Area Report looks at erosion

January 9, 2011

Photo By KATHLEEN MCKIERNAN The Ocean Mist in Matunuck is one of the local businesses hit hard by erosion along the beach.

SOUTH KINGSTOWN – For the past 15 years, coastal erosion along Matunuck Town Beach caused by severe storms has concerned South Kingstown town officials due its threat to businesses and houses along the shoreline. To mitigate coastal erosion, the town Planning Department has developed a Matunuck Coastal Area Report detailing storm related shoreline impacts from 1939 to present and potential shoreline protection options, released this past Tuesday.

“It was to look at all the erosion that occurred at Matunuck Beach Road and to look at all the storm damage that occurred and think of options on how to mitigate the erosion,” Ray Nickerson, the principal planner at the Planning Department said. “The Matunuck erosion is such an encroaching issue with each storm.”

With the coastal erosion being so great, Matunuck Beach Road may be compromised with a future major storm. According to the coastal area report, the coastal erosion represents a threat to Matunuck Beach Road that could impact and undermine the structural integrity of the roadway, which includes a 12 inch water main that supplies water to the East Matunuck area. The water main also serves as a secondary supply line, if the town decided to purchase water from Narragansett in the future.
The coastal erosion also threatens businesses along Matunuck Beach Road, which is a major source of the coastal, seasonal tourism in the summer including rental properties for summer visitors. Businesses along the road include the Vanilla Bean, a seasonal ice cream shop, Ocean Mist Restaurant and Bar and Tara’s Joyce Family Pub. These businesses provide 75 jobs, thus being part of the local economy. The Town Beach, surfing at Matunuck Point, Trestles and Deep Hole and fishing along this shorefront also offers recreation for residents, which also may be negatively impacted by the erosion.

While consulting with Dr. Jon Boothroyd, the appointed geologist for the state and a professor at the University of Rhode Island's geology department, the Planning Department discovered that due to changes in weather patterns over recent years more extratropical storms have occurred. Extratropical storms, like Nor'easters, have the greatest affect on Rhode Island's south shore, which causes severe erosion and coastal flooding, which is responsible for the shoreline changes for the Matunuck area from 1985 to 2006.

For more information pick up a copy of The Narragansett Times.

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