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Westport hopes snow fence helps guard fragile beach from breakthrough

By   /   December 24, 2012  /   Be the first to comment

Chris Leonard

Volunteers erect a stretch of snow fence on a storm-threatened stretch of beach last week.

While storm damage to the east end of Westport’s beaches has been well-documented, west-end beaches have taken a beating as well over the past few years.

Two weeks ago, crews set out to try a low-tech repair meant to stabilize and build the diminished dunes before the situation worsens.

Members of the town Conservation Commission and harbormaster’s office, among others, lugged sections of snow fence out beyond Cherry & Webb Beach west toward Horseneck Point.

After they had erected the fencing, they returned last week with reinforcements from the town Highway Department.

Foreman Chris Goncalves and driver Andrew Sousa used a front end loader to push sand up into berms in front of the new fence, added protection it is hoped, against the next storm.

“The tide got us before we could finish so we’ll probably head back out there sometime next week to finish up,”Harbormaster Riche Earle said Thursday afternoon.

“The dunes out there have taken a real pounding during recent storms,” Mr. Earle said, “and we want to see if this helps.” The fear, he said, is that with the dunes beaten down, that narrow, low-lying strip of sand is vulnerable to washover or even a breakthrough in some future storm. Once out at the worksite, they found that recent storms had indeed washed through and damaged some of the dunes.

A breakthrough could have a severe impact on the channel, harbor and river. “A second entrance could really change things — and not for the better,” Mr. Earle said.

“The entrance now needs all the water flow it can get” to keep from sanding in. Water rushing through a second entrance would suck sand in as well, causing hard-to-predict changes to the harbor channel which the town, state and federal government recently worked hard to dredge.

The group hopes the fencing has the same effect on sand as it does on snow — causing it to pile up in dunes or drifts rather than blow away. Then later, perhaps, beach grass could be planted to help hold the sand in place. For now they are putting up about 250 feet of snow fence “and we’ll see how that works,” Mr. Earle said. He expects they’ll be back soon to do more work.

You never know. “It could help or maybe we’re just shoveling **** against the tide … Whichever, it’s worth a try.”

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