Marshfield to vote on about $5 million for coastal repairs

With memories of winter’s coastal flooding still fresh in their minds, Marshfield voters go to Town Meeting April 22, to vote on about $5 million to replace a stretch of sea wall and a separate area of stones that have been placed along the shore to minimize erosion.

The vote comes two years after a Town Meeting vote that made a statement about townwide support for sea-wall repair; voters rejected a betterment fee that would have been imposed only on coastal residents. Now, however, concern over sea-level rise, and the idea that sea walls are merely a temporary fix, is growing stronger.

“We can’t not keep [sea walls] up, but we can’t keep them up forever,” said Reed Stewart, a member of the town’s newly appointed coastal advisory board.


The walls that protect Marshfield’s coastline today may only be useful for the next 20 or 30 years, said Stewart, a retired professor of geography.

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“Sea walls are a Band-Aid,” but at the same time essential in the short term, he said. “People live close to them. We need to protect the people who are there.”

Thomas Reynolds, superintendent of the Department of Public Works, said the figure to be voted on Monday includes $50,000 for design of 2,600 feet of sea wall along Foster Avenue and $500,000 for replacement of revetment — rocks placed along the shore — at Hewitt’s Point.

“It’s [been] undermined over time,” he said. The new stones will weigh 5 to 8 tons each. About 150 feet of the 300- to 400-yard revetment will be replaced, he said. The stones block incoming waves, reducing their effect on the shore.

The lion’s share of the money will go to replace 1,131 feet of sea wall along Surf Avenue, from Farragut Road to Old Beach Road. The town originally estimated the cost to be $4.25 million, but when it opened bidding on the work April 11, the town received 12 bids within the first couple of days, Reynolds said. He said the lowest, from Northern Construction, which has done work for the town before, came in at $3.25 million. Other bids went as high as $5.6 million.


As part of the project, the pedestrian access way at Old Beach Road will be reconstructed and made handicapped-accessible, he said. Stairways along the area will be repaired or rebuilt as well.

The town went out to bid in advance of receiving Town Meeting approval in order to get as firm a number as possible to present to the voters, he said.

With the low bid, the cost per foot would be lower than Marshfield has paid in the past, which Reynolds attributed to a wider awareness of the availability of sea-wall work on the South Shore and to resulting competition.

Annual and Special Town Meetings are both being held Monday, and the sea-wall work appears on the Special Town Meeting warrant to allow work to begin right away, rather than in the new fiscal year, he said. The fiscal year begins July 1.

Joe Rossi, chairman of Marshfield Coastal Coalition, said the volunteer citizens group unanimously supports the funding request. The coalition mailed information to coastal residents urging them to support the article, which also has the support of the Board of Selectmen.


Rossi said he was not aware of any organized group opposing the funding.

At the Hewitt’s Point revetment, he said, the work is very much a safety issue. The rocks are mortared together; rather than moving individually to conform to the shore, they have stayed static as waves swept away the underlying sand. The situation could eventually cause a collapse, presenting a danger to people who climb on the rocks, he said.

The new rocks will not be mortared, he said. “Allowing the stone to move is critical.”

At the sea wall, Reynolds said, most of the problems stem not from recent storms but from decades of deterioration. He believes the section of wall to be replaced was built in the 1930s. It was made of concrete, rounded beach stones, and sand, without any reinforcement wire or bars. Today, reinforcing bars and concrete additives make a new wall stronger than the old, he said.

“Hopefully with the new technology and materials, these will last a hundred years,” he said.

Like Rossi, Reynolds said the entire town benefits from having beaches and being a coastal community.

Regarding long-term planning, Stewart said the town’s new coastal advisory board, which had yet to meet as of late last week, can further educate the public about what is happening to the coast, identify possible solutions, and seek funding to take whatever action the town deems necessary.

Other articles on the agenda for Town Meeting include a 20-year agreement to purchase solar power from No Fossil Fuels LLC. Town Meeting is also expected to vote on the expenditure of $98,000 to buy Tasers for police and conduct related training, and a moratorium until May 30, 2014, on medical marijuana dispensaries newly allowed by state law.

Jennette Barnes can be reached at