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Matunuck fights on until its last breath

January 8, 2012

Matunuck residents sign petitions of support for the town's two applications to erect a stone sheet pile wall on Matunuck Beach Road and to reclassify the shoreline from Type 1 to Type 2 to protect the community from erosion on Saturday, Jan. 7 at Matunuck Elementary School. Photo by Kathleen McKiernan

SOUTH KINGSTOWN – There were joys of reunion this past Saturday afternoon in Matunuck, but in the midst of hugs and smiles the summer beach community had more serious business on their minds.

The MC Homeowners Association that makes up Carpenters Beach Meadows brought together the town council, town staff and the Matunuck property owners to filter through the rumors and get to the bottom of what the town is doing to prevent erosion along Matunuck Beach Road.

As Town Manager Stephen Alfred stood before an overflowing auditorium at Matunuck Elementary School, he stated that in the April 20, 2011 Coastal Resources Management Report, the council recommended the town use soft beach enhancements to protect the road or inland migration.
“They want us to destroy Mary Carpenter’s Beach Meadows in terms of relocating the road. We will not support that option,” Alfred said firmly, rousing applause from the community.

Options the town is considering is a sheet pile wall on the town’s right of way and reclassification of the shoreline from Type 1 coastal headlands to Type 2 manmade.

The town applied for both options and now awaits Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) to develop a staff report and to determine a public hearing date.

On Aug. 31, 2011 the town applied for a coastal assent to construct a sheet pile wall, running 202 feet from the western boundary of the Ocean Mist, to protect the town’s right of way on Matunuck Beach Road, Alfred said. The wall would be similar to the seawall at Ocean Road in Narragansett.

To continue construction of the sheet pile wall if the roadway is compromised, Alfred said the town is looking for the assent to extend the wall another 350 feet. This 350 feet would only be constructed if needed.

Though the town received a $1.5 million grant for the project if approved, the project cost is only about $600,000. Alfred said the town will not be able to use the left over money elsewhere.
An engineering company from East Greenwich, St. Jean Engineering has taken on the design of the wall after the town council approved an $81,900 contract with the company in June. The company initially made two plans for the wall, either a rip-rap wall that extended 800 feet or the stone sheet pile wall.

Alfred said the town chose the second option because “the material issue was whether it was a viable plan that would receive coastal approval. We also looked at how we could protect the road and get the necessary permits.”

It is rumored that the wall would seal off access to the Matunuck businesses, but Alfred said “this is absolutely false. Access would be maintained. I want to dispel these rumors.”

The town also applied for an assent to move the utility poles on the road from the north side to the south side to install the wall. The CRMC has approved the application to move the utility poles.

Alfred said the town’s main objective is to maintain public and emergency access to the road, but “we’re concerned with businesses and property owners seaward being able to protect their assets.”
The last application is key in providing Matunuck residents a mechanism to protect their property.

In December, the town applied to reclassify 1,272 feet of Matunuck Beach Road starting at the Matunuck Trailer Park Association, affecting 11 lots on the front seaward side of the road. The shoreline would change from a Type 1 coastal headlands area to Type 2 manmade beach area.

Because the 250 properties at the western corner of the Ocean Mist are private property, Alfred said, “We as town can’t provide the maintenance and protection for private property.”

But, the reclassification would allow the private property owners to erect stone walls for protection themselves. The town is advocating for the property owner’s behalf to get this application approved.

“It would change the prohibition for these property owners to be able to construct sea walls. It would provide an opportunity for residents to come up with a collaborative plan to put a stone wall behind their property for protection,” Alfred said.

Owner of the Ocean Mist Bar Kevin Finnegan urged his fellow community to support the town in the shoreline reclassification.

“It comes down to changing this designation,” Kevin Finnegan, owner of the Ocean Mist Bar said. “Just change the classification. I’ve spent 20 to 40 years living here. Just change the classification.”

For more information, pick up a copy of Wednesday's paper.

Southern Rhode Island Newspapers
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