Coastal Resources Working Group

 Group completed its charge and was dissolved.

The Coastal Resources Working Group (CRWG) was active from May 2000 to October 2010. The CRWG was charged by the Board of Selectmen to:

1) identify key factors dictating the current condition of Falmouth’s coastal sediment system;
2) explore reasons for the current condition;
3) develop future scenarios of the coastal zone based on physical processes and coastal management; and
4) provide community outreach and recommendations concerning coastal processes and coastal management.

The CRWG was composed of volunteers with expertise in coastal geology, oceanography, coastal management, landowner issues, water quality, land use, ecology, and coastal navigation.

The CRWG completed a study of Falmouth's south shore in 2003. The report is entitled "The Future of Falmouth’s South Shore". The report and accompanying Appendix is available for download below:

The Future of Falmouth's South Shore
The Future of Falmouth's South Shore Appendix Maps and Tables

In 2010, the CRWG completed a study of Falmouth's Buzzards Bay coast. The report is entitled "The Future of Falmouth’s Buzzards Bay Shore" and is available for download below:

The Future of Falmouth’s Buzzards Bay Shore

Copies of both reports are also available for review at the Falmouth Main Library, East Falmouth Library, North Falmouth Library, Woods Hole Library, and West Falmouth Library.

The fundamental finding of the Coastal Resources Working Group (CRWG) is that over the past 150 years, the Falmouth shoreline has been developed in a manner that has significantly impaired the ability of the coast to evolve in response to natural processes, leading to an overall decrease in the viability of the coastal system. The natural processes that build and maintain beaches have become largely inoperative due to the presence of jetties, groins, and coastal armoring. Although groins and jetties trap sand on their upstream sides, downstream beaches become starved of sand because their continued erosion is no longer offset by sediment from an upstream supply. Sand supply is further interrupted by armoring with seawalls and revetments. In the near future, all of these problems will be exacerbated by a predicted acceleration in the global rate of sea-level rise.

The Town is today at a crossroads. It is clear to the CRWG that if the next 100 years of shoreline development is similar to the previous 100 years, the Falmouth shoreline will be an undesirable, even hazardous environment, devoid of all beaches except those artificially maintained. However, with aggressive action this trend can be reversed. Falmouth can restore the values of our shoreline and become a national leader in pro-active coastal management.

The CRWG developed a long-term "vision" for Falmouth’s shoreline which includes restoration of natural sediment processes wherever possible and improving public access along the entire shoreline. This vision would be realized over the next 50 to 100 years, to achieve the following goals:

• Beaches and dunes will be wide enough for protection from storms and for public access and use.
• Sufficient sand will reside in the coastal system to maintain those beaches.
• Water quality, habitat and fisheries resources of the coastal zone, estuaries, ponds and marshes will be sustained and enhanced.
• A minimum of hard structures (groins, seawalls, etc.) will be found in the coastal zone, to reduce maintenance costs, allow natural sediment transport, and for ease and safety of public use; adverse impacts of their presence will be mitigated by passive and active management approaches.
• Shoreline armoring structures, where present, will not detract from the aesthetics of and access to the shoreline environment.
• Public infrastructure will be relocated from the immediate coast to reduce maintenance and repair costs and to reduce its impact on the coastal system.
• A pro-active approach to shoreline management will be aimed towards prevention of problems and provide a response protocol when shoreline damage occurs.

The CRWG recommends the following actions to achieve these goals. Most of these goals should be achieved over the next 20 years. Monitoring and revising these actions and timelines for implementation should occur as necessary over a 50 to 100 year time frame. Some of the recommended actions include:

• Acquire coastal land for open space to increase public access, reduce property and infrastructure damage, and improve the functioning of coastal processes.
• Move or change vulnerable public infrastructure to reduce damage and maintenance costs.
• Conduct beach nourishment at key “source” locations to restore the natural sand transport system and provide recreation and storm protection.
• Remove unnecessary, hazardous, or damaging coastal armoring structures.
• Create sand management systems that will keep sand from being transported offshore into deep water by jetties.
• Develop improved regulations to protect coastal systems and beaches.
• Encourage landowners to obtain conservation easements that protect valuable coastal assets such as unarmored bluffs that provide sediment to down-drift beaches.

There is a clear need for a comprehensive coastal management plan that addresses long-term planning and provides for timely responses to short-term (e.g., storm-related) issues. In addition to the tools listed above, local, state and federal regulations can be used to implement such a plan. It will require coordination among many Town groups and agencies that already are involved in different aspects of coastal management. The CRWG believes coordinated, proactive coastal management is both highly desirable and achievable through concerted Town effort.