SOUTH KINGSTOWN – The Coastal Resources Management Council is allowing Matunuck Beach Road property owners to install temporary wooden bulk heads to prevent further erosion of their properties if the town council approves.
In its April 20 report on Matunuck erosion, the Coastal Resources Management Council stated that temporary structures on the beach would be allowed as long as they are for the short-term. CRMC stated that the installation of temporary wooden bulkhead shoreline protection structures is not an appropriate long-term solution to address the erosion issues in the Matunuck area, but may provide some short-term, minor level of protection.
The Coastal Council stated that although allowing the installation of the temporary bulkheads is against their federal mandate to manage coastal development to minimize the loss of life and property caused by improper development in erosion-prone areas, it will allow it in Matunuck because the town and property owners said all other efforts of non-structural shoreline protection have failed and they must now be allowed to install the bulkheads to protect their properties.
If the town council allows property owners to install bulkheads along their properties, CRMC recommended that the bulkheads be installed as close as practical to the buildings, be connected to one another and be installed concurrently. Otherwise any gaps in the line of temporary structures will result in the premature failure of the entire system.
CRMC also advised the town council to consider that temporary shoreline protection be installed in a tiered approach with “soft” solutions utilized first and then if they are not effective progressively “harder” solutions up to a temporary timber bulkhead. The Coastal Council also stipulated that all temporary shoreline protection structures be administratively approved for 12 months. At least 30 days before the expiration of the initial approval by CRMC , the applicant may apply for an extension of six months. The applicant must demonstrate that a long term solution is being actively pursued and that there have been no impacts on public access and that the adjacent properties have not had erosion accelerated by the temporary structure.
“The town is continuing efforts to determine qualifications for applications for temporary bulkheads for protecting structures,” Town Manager Stephen A. Alfred said to the town council at Monday night’s meeting.
Alfred said so far no property owners have applied to install a temporary bulkhead.
For long-term solutions, the Coastal Council recommended inland retreat and beach nourishment especially considering the continual increase in sea level rise.
“If these aren’t feasible, the existing structures would fall into the sea,” Alfred said.
CRMC stated that if the town council determines that these two options are unacceptable, another option is to reclassify the shoreline as a manmade shoreline. The reclassification would allow the option of installing and maintaining structural shoreline protection, which is a permissible activity on man-made shorelines along Type 1 with council approval.
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