To the editor:
In “Buried for airstrip, marsh to be reborn,” the Westport Shorelines reports that Massachusetts will receive $10.4 million under the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act to support projects in Harwich, Chatham, Yarmouth, Dartmouth, and Taunton “to restore marshes, wetlands and beaches, rebuild shorelines, and research the effects of storm surge impacts.”
Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan is quoted, “This substantial infusion of federal funding will aid in our ongoing efforts to protect our coast from devastating impacts of a massive weather event. These projects will also create jobs, providing an economic boost to our local communities.”
How different it is here in Westport! Here in Westport we scrape out and pave wetlands. In Westport we bulldoze and haul off our barrier dunes. We don’t need a “massive weather event” to devastate our beaches, we’ve got town operated bulldozers for that.
Yes, I speak of Beach Avenue and its barrier beach which protects lower Acoaxet, Westport’s harbor, and the river’s west branch—and of the town’s ongoing assault on it. Now that thousands of cubic yards of Beach Avenue wetlands, dunes, and vegetation have been dug up and carted off, the town’s next step will be to asphalt a football field length of it.
The contrast is stark and sadly ironic, both environmentally and fiscally, between Dartmouth’s constructive shoreline work and our destruction of a critically important barrier beach. Dartmouth’s restoration and revegetation of Round Hill Salt Marsh will “mitigate coastal flooding through enhanced drainage and improved tidal dynamics.” I seriously doubt that asphalting the majority of Beach Avenue will enhance the drainage of that flood prone area or improve tidal dynamics.
There is also the matter of money. Dartmouth’s salt marsh restoration brings in new funding. Westport’s treatment of Beach Avenue dissipates existing Chapter 90 funds earmarked for road construction, maintenance, and improvement—without actually achieving any of those objectives!
Yes, we are all still waiting for those yellow and white lines that end where Westport-maintained roads begin. Yes, we still await something (anything!) to make East Beach Road more safe, sound, and easily traversed; for something to be done about widening cracks and potholes in our roads.. Maybe there will be some money left over after paving Beach Avenue to do something about these obviously much lower priority items.
Constance Bumgarner Gee