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A town in Massachusetts spent $600,000 on protecting its shore, but a winter storm washed it away in a few days

BOSTON — A Massachusetts beach community is in a frenzy after a weekend storm swept away large amounts of sand brought in for a dune that cost almost $600,000 and was intended to safeguard homes, roads and other infrastructure.

A Massachusetts beach community is in a difficult situation after a storm washed away large amounts of sand brought in for a nearly $600,000 dune meant to protect homes, roads, and other infrastructure.

Over several weeks in Salisbury, 14,000 tons of sand were brought in for a shore protection project. The project was finished just three days before a strong storm hit southern New England with strong winds, heavy rainfall, and coastal flooding.

The Salisbury Beach Citizens for Change group, which organized the project and helped raise funds, shared on social media about the project's completion last week and again after the storm. They argued that the sacrificing dunes did their job and helped protect some properties from the storm.

This is the latest in a series of severe storms in the community and across Massachusetts, which had already experienced flooding, erosion, and infrastructure damage in January.

For decades, sand replenishment has been the government's main method of shore protection. Congress has consistently allocated funds for such work, claiming it effectively safeguards lives and property and sustains the tourism industry.

However, critics argue that it is inherently wasteful to continue pumping sand ashore knowing that it will inevitably wash away.

Some scientists predict that climate change will bring more severe weather, such as hurricanes, to the Northeast as waters warm. The United Nations has stated that sea levels have risen faster since 1900, putting hundreds of millions of people at risk. Changing conditions are also causing erosion that threatens beaches across the globe, according to European Union researchers.

Salisbury is not the first town to see its efforts to protect the shore washed away.

Earlier this year, after a storm destroyed its dunes, a New Jersey town sought emergency permission to build a steel barrier—something it had done in two other spots—along the most heavily eroded section of its beachfront. The state denied the request and instead fined North Wildwood for unauthorized beach repairs. The Department of Environmental Protection has often opposed bulkheads, noting that the structures often encourage sand scouring that can accelerate and worsen erosion.

State Sen. Bruce Tarr is working to secure $1.5 million in state funding to strengthen the Salisbury dunes, saying the efforts will protect a major roadway, water and sewer infrastructure, as well as hundreds of homes, which make up 40% of Salisbury's tax base.

Tarr stated that replenishing the dunes was one of the few options since hard structures like sea walls aren't allowed on Massachusetts beaches, and it is crucial for protecting various interests.

However, some questioned the reasoning behind continuing to replenish the sand.

Resident Peter Lodi responded to the Salisbury beach group's Facebook post, saying he wasn't sure why anyone was shocked.

He wrote, “Throw all the sand down you want. Mother nature decides how long it will protect your homes. It's only going to get worse. Not sure what the solution is but sand is merely a band-aid on a wound that needs multiple stitches.”

The group argued to Lodi that the state had a duty to protect their beach and the residents were benefiting the community by funding the project.

The group expressed their belief that if something is regulated, there should be responsibility and maintenance. They stated, “The residents who fixed the dune in front of their property actually helped both the city and the state. Now it’s their turn to take action.”

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