Westport ponders rock wall — or nothing — to protect East Beach Road


With memories of  latest East Beach beatdown fresh, the Board of Selectmen met last week to talk over possible long-term fixes for the vulnerable roadway.

Proposals ranged from minimalist — no pavement or structures — to an armored wall meant break the waves' force before they strike the road.

Also there at last week's meeting was Chris White of Tibbetts Engineering, the New Bedford-based firm hired by Westport for $57,000 to  develop ideas and designs to protect East Beach Road.

Mr. Tibbetts showed the Selectmen preliminary plans for a rock  revetment "armor" wall that could be placed along 300 feet of the road's hardest hit stretch. The wall of massive, fitted stones, he said, would have a gradual slope out 35 feet into the ocean meant to diffuse the waves' strength rather than take the pounding straight on.

Others, though, among them Town Administrator Jack Healey and Selectman Chairman Richard Spirlet, wondered about the long-term value of  spending large sums on rebuilding and repaving the road after every storm.

However the road is rebuilt,  it will be "blown away" by big storms,  Mr. White said.

Mr. Spirlet noted that the road was repaired relatively quickly this time, despite having been left in a shambles by Hurricane Sandy. He said the fact that the road had not been repaved after the previous storm may have played a part.

Unlike paved sections that are undermined and can wash back into the marsh, the cobble and gravel sections were regraded by town equipment back to passable condition within a few days.

And Mr. Healey noted another benefit of the rougher packed stone surface — "You can't speed on East Beach Road."

Highway Surveyor Jack Sisson said (last week before he was relieved of duty) that he, too, thinks there is little to be gained from paving.

"It doesn't make much sense to pave something down there since the next storm is just going to ruin it again. It's just crazy to keep putting money into something that moves around like that place does."

Sand and stone can be regraded quickly, he said. The resulting ride is bumpy but drivable.

Concerned about the cost of the rock barrier proposal, Mr. Spirlet asked the engineer whether the town might be able to build something less elaborate that would have a similar wave calming effect. Rocks, he added, are one thing that East Beach and Westport have plenty of.

Mr. White said his firm will look into these and other possibilities.

In a related matter, Westport voters were scheduled to vote at Tuesday evening's special town meeting on a request for $610,000 to cover the cost of damage done by the floods of 2010, Tropical Storm Irene and Hurricane Sandy. High on the its of those expenses is work done on East Beach Road.



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