Much to the chagrin of some Scituate officials, rocky beaches in Marshfield will receive all of sand from an ongoing dredging project underway on the South River.
Though the South River dredging project has been ongoing since 2009, the issue between the two towns reared its head during a recent Scituate Zoning Board hearing, when Scituate Selectman John Danehey discovered how ideal the dredged sand would be for beach replenishment.
“What I said to the Zoning Board and applicant, which happened to the town of Marshfield, [was] would it be possible to use some of [the dredged sand] to replenish the sand on Humarock?” Danehey said in a phone conversation.
According to Danehey, Marshfield Harbormaster Michael DiMeo was upset by the question, saying that it was too late in the process to be asking for those kinds of concessions.
The response surprised Danehey, who said he had hoped the towns could work something out.
“I’m not trying to thwart Marshfield and create a border war…but if the sand is so good, why is it we will be taking parts of Scituate and giving the benefit to Marshfield? If the answer is we’re paying for it…that’s fine. But that’s not what it was,” Danehey said.
Dredging has long been needed in the river, which intersects both Scituate and Marshfield. The need was made even more apparent by a state-funded renovation of the Sea Street Bridge in 2009.
Though work on the bridge, connecting Marshfield to Humarock, made the piers father apart for boaters to pass underneath, the work did not include the dredging of sediment underneath the bridge, causing a hazard for boaters and a potential problem for law-breaking teenagers who could jump off the bridge into very shallow water.
It was then that DiMeo said he started looking for the money to dredge the portion under the bridge as well as a portion of the South River for easier access upstream.
“Once Mass Highway completed the project, it’s owned by both communities…[and] I took the initiative to see it to fruition,” DiMeo said.
DiMeo received $200,000 from Marshfield taxpayers for the work, as well as a $200,000 grant from the state.
Coupled with an additional $40,000 – partially from a grant from the Department of Conservation and Recreation, and partially with town money – serious planning and permitting got underway.
By then, the decision was made by a host of engineers to move the sand to Rexhame Beach, over a mile and a half away from the bridge and dredging location, DiMeo said.
“Scituate really wasn’t on his project monetarily. Marshfield put the lead and we had to pick a location, and Rexhame Beach was used before…for beach nourishment,” DiMeo said.
There was also confusion with Humarock as to which parts of the beach were public and which were private, DiMeo said. Running out of time and not wanting to delay things further, Rexhame Beach was picked.
“With this project, time was of the essence…if we didn’t earmark the location, we would have lost a whole year of dredging,” DiMeo said.
DiMeo noted that Humarock beaches are closer, and would have been easier to incorporate, had that been possible
Though Marshfield will gain the benefit of sand in the meantime, the permits DiMeo has procured will make dredging work easier in the future, as they are good for several years after initially obtained.
“When we do the biological samples and analysis of and in the South River, if it’s suitable for beach nourishment, I’m certain it will end up in Humarock,” DiMeo said.
For now, Marshfield will continue to get the permits eligible to do the work, and come Novermber, the 11,000 cubic yards of sediment - 5,700 cubic yards of which is from Scituate land - will be transported by a pipe to the Marshfield beach.
Although Scituate beaches will remain rocky for the time being, Danehey brought up the item at a Selectmen meeting in late May, voicing his disappointment with the town’s Zoning Board and Conservation Commission for not mandating that Scituate receive more of a benefit from the project.
In the future, Danehey said his eyes have been opened when it comes to procuring beach sand.
“Any future projects like that dealing with dredging, I expect our town to look into it to see if there could be anything that will be beneficial, besides a channel that will benefit boaters,” Danehey said.