Update on beach alterations in Rhode Island

5 07 2012

The surf scoured shoreline along Matunuck Beach Road. (Photo ri.surfrider.org)

Back in May, I wrote about a battle underway in South Kingstown, RI regarding the fate of Matunuck Beach. Coastal erosion has been threatening buildings, a road along the beachfront, and a water supply pipe to a cluster of homes and businesses. Initially, at the end of April, the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) voted down a request to reclassify the shore as man-made, which would have opened up the beach to various reinforcement and construction projects. But, under pressure from town officials in South Kingstown, the CRMC appears to have reversed course and approved plans to build a retaining wall along Matunuck Beach Road.

Last week, the project leapt a big hurdle when the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Surface Transportation Extension Act, which includes $1.6 million for Matunuck Beach Road stabilization. Environmentalists and beach goers have been opposed to the project because of the fundamental and largely irreversible alteration it will make to this beautiful bit of shoreline.

It seems unlikely that even the very best wall will solve this problem permanently. The ocean generally wins, even in the face of the cleverest human engineering. And with the Northeast being a hotspot for climate change related sea level rise, even the best laid plans of R.I. may well be underwater within a human lifetime.

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