Ocean vs. East Beach — No contest
Maurice and Jennine Thibault of Westport traverse the sand portion of East Beach Rd. that was damaged by Hurricane Sandy, while out for a walk on Friday morning.
Although they were able to plow out and piece together East Beach Road more quickly after Hurricane Sandy than after Irene, town officials repeated that the road needs attention of a more permanent sort. And such a fix might include taking some of the trailer lots on the road's north side to enable moving the road in a bit from the ocean. Town Administrator Jack Healehttp://www.eastbayri.com/wp-admin/edit.php?post_type=feedbacky and other town officials, among them members of the Board of Selectmen, Board of Health and Beach Commission, went down for a look last week while Highway Department crews were working to reopen the stretch after the latest pounding. Several reiterated a call made after Irene to move the road inland, perhaps by as much as 100 feet along the route's east end near Horseneck Road. That is where the worst of the damage happened both during Irene and Sandy. Otherwise, they said, the town is doomed to pour good money after bad every time a storm hits the exposed beach and road. Abandoning the road is out of the question, officials agree. Not only does it provide access to that stretch of beach but it provides an escape route should there be a problem with the main Horseneck-area escape route via the Fontaine Bridge whose opening mechanism has had problems sometimes in the past. Weeks before Sandy hit, Selectmen had approved spending $57,000 for two design options for the battered road. Tibbets Engineering of Taunton is preparing the designs and the Selectman expect to choose one (or elements from both). The plans could involve several scenarios, from moving the road in places to building protective barriers. Although the town intends to put the work on the fast track, going out to bid as soon as possible, it is unlikely that any work could begin before next spring. The town Highway Department had largely wrapped up its East Beach repairs by last Friday. The job entailed clearing the route of cobble and filling in the latest length of pavement to be undermined (this one adjoins the stretch lost last year to Irene). By the time they were done there was a passable, though bumpy, route all the way through. Highway Surveyor Jack Sisson said the repair is similar to many others made over the years after Hurricane Bob, Irene, Sandy and several winter storms. Mr. Sisson declined to weigh in on the road relocation debate. "That's for the Selectmen to decide, not me." But he did question the wisdom of ever repaving the vulnerable sections of East Beach Road. "It doesn't make much sense to pave anything down there since the next storm is just going to ruin it again," Mr. Sisson said. "It's just crazy to keep putting money into something that moves around like that place does." If it was up to him, Mr. Sisson said he'd leave it a sand and stone road — bumpy but more easily fixed. "If you want to live there and drive through there … that's the way it is." It's unlikely that any "nice. smooth road" can survive there for long. Al Novo, 66, says this latest call to take trailer lots was predictable. "Any excuse to get us out of here. That's what they're really up to and any storm is just another good excuse, to kick us out," said Mr. Novo, a Westport resident whose wife Carol is head of the East Beach Association. "We are considered trailer trash. They don't want Westport to be a trailer town." Mr. Novo said this storm's impact was the same as many before and offers no better reason to take land than ever before. "If you move the road back, ten years from now the same thing will happen. Eventually we will lose it all — the ocean will win … just look at the Atlantic City boardwalk. But for now, just let us enjoy this property that we own and pay taxes on. He added that the proposal makes no financial sense. "They can't just take our lots, they would have to buy them and this town doesn't have two nickels to rub together." "East Beach is beautiful, it's supposed to be a place of enjoyment but all they do is harass us. I'm getting older and am tired of this battle," Mr.Novo said. "It's wearing me out."