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Chatham is doing something about its eroding beaches

Chatham’s eroding public beaches on Nantucket Sound could soon be revitalized, after a $750, 000 beach nourishment plan was endorsed by the town’s selectman at their weekly board meeting.CRAIG F. WALKER/GLOBE STAFF

Two of Chatham’s eroding public beaches on Nantucket Sound could soon be revitalized, after a $750,000 beach nourishment plan was endorsed by the town’s selectmen at their weekly board meeting Tuesday night.

“This is a major issue for the town of Chatham,” Selectman Jeffrey Dykens said at the meeting.

“I think, arguably, our south-facing beaches are one of our highest and best assets for this town,” he said. “It’s what attracts folks here, they’re huge for recreation. They’re absolutely wonderful assets that we need to protect and improve.”

The plan, proposed at the meeting by Chatham Director of Natural Resources Robert Duncanson and Director of Coastal Resources Theodore Keon, would use sand dredged from sources along the town’s southern coast to renourish the depleted Cockle Cove and Harding beaches between 2018 and 2020.


A third erosion “hot spot” on the town’s south coast, Ridgevale Beach, would be naturally nourished by the new sediment placed on the nearby Cockle Cove Beach.

“It’s fairly obvious along most of our shoreline that ongoing beach erosion is a fairly common/chronic issue along the Cape,” Keon said in a telephone interview Thursday. “They are in more deteriorated condition than they were a few years ago.”

Cockle Cove Beach in Chatham.CRAIG F. WALKER/GLOBE STAFF

In response to the erosion and complaints from visitors to the public beaches this summer, Keon’s department developed the plan. Tens of thousands of cubic yards of sand dredged from the Mill Creek Inlet off Cockle Cove, the Stage Harbor navigation channel connecting the harbor to Nantucket Sound, and the Morris Island Cut east of the navigation channel would be used to renourish Harding and Cockle Cove beaches.

Chatham officials still have a lot to do before the sand starts pouring onto the town’s southern shores, though. Keon said the proposal first must be added to future town budgets and be scheduled with the Barnstable County dredges — alongside operations in other Cape towns.


If approved, the plan would have around 30,000 cubic yards of sand nourishment brought to Cockle Cove Beach during the 2019 fiscal year at an estimated cost of $450,000.

The Harding Beach portion would be completed in the 2020 fiscal year and would provide the waterfront with around 20,000 cubic yards of sand at an estimated cost of $300,000.

Keon also said the plan calls for reevaluations of the sites in years ahead, as coastal erosion and beach management are not static issues on Cape Cod.

“For us to maintain the beaches for the enjoyment of the public, you need to provide sand,” he said. “If we were to essentially ‘give up’ on providing any additional nourishment, these systems would continue to migrate and erode.”

“This is not something that you can just do it a few times and say ‘We solved the problem.’ This is an ongoing process,” Keon said.

Harding Beach in Chatham.CRAIG F. WALKER/GLOBE STAFF

Ben Thompson can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Globe_Thompson