We the undersigned residents and/or tax payers in the town of Barnstable, MA request that the under the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act, the MEPA Office require a full MEPA review and Environmental Impact Report of the Dead Neck Sampsons Island (DNSI) Barrier Beach Management Plan proposed by Three Bays Preservation and Massachusetts Audubon (ENF prepared by Sullivan Engineering, Inc.).
We believe that this project exceeds the review thresholds of the Code of Massachusetts Regulations such as for the Alteration of a Barrier Beach, Alteration of ½ acre or more, Dredging off 10,000 or more cubic yards and Disposal of 10,000 or more cubic yards.
The plan essentially calls for the destruction of almost 11 acres of barrier beach, intertidal areas and land under ocean at the western end of the barrier beach, known as Sampsons Island. Sampsons Island protects Cotuit Harbor and the easterly Cotuit shoreline.
Dredging 800’ off the western end of the island goes beyond the concept of routine maintenance. The channel has only been widened to that point once and that was back in 1934. The extent of dredging proposed by this project has not been carried out on a regular nor periodic basis. “Routine” is something that has been done more than once. This project cannot claim routine maintenance for that very reason. The project does not qualify for exemption from filing under 301 CMR 11.01(2)(b)(3).
Since 1934 there have been many changes in our world, including climate change that has led to rising sea levels. To assume that dredging to the same extent as in 1934 would have no greater effect on the harbor and the Cotuit shoreline is faulty reasoning. To argue that the existing shoals in Nantucket Sound to the southeast of this barrier island are sufficient to protect the Cotuit shore and harbor, is to forget that the land under the sea can change at any time due to the various forces of nature. It is ephemeral. Its continued existence is a future that we cannot guarantee.
The western end of the barrier beach offers great protection to Cotuit Harbor an area enjoyed by hundreds of recreational boats large and small. Sampsons Island provides protection, not just from storms, but also from the prevailing south westerly winds that can be fairly stiff on any given day. Removal of that extent of barrier beach could very easily jeopardize “Bluff Point”, over washing it and filing in the anchorage area in only a minor storm.
There is also considerable argument that this plan fails to meet the standards of Environmental Justice. For many, many decades, perhaps even hundreds of years, residents of Cotuit and neighboring communities have enjoyed relaxing and picnicking on Sampsons Island. Even President Kennedy came to the island with his family years ago.
Some people swim over to the island because of its close proximity to the Cotuit shore, others arrive in their boat, and even more are ferried over from the Cotuit shore by friends already at the island … who will go back to the mainland and bring their family and friends back over to the island. Many, many people who might otherwise not be able to enjoy a day at the beach are able to come here and relax and enjoy the beauty of Cape Cod.
Surely, when Mr. Harry L. Bailey the previous owner of Sampson’s Island gave his land to the Massachusetts Audubon Society in 1954 to be used as a bird sanctuary, he did not envision it as an island forbidden to the people of Cotuit!
And it has not been. Both Mass Audubon and Three Bays Preservation have allowed the public to use the island through membership to their organizations or a daily charge. Of course there are rules, as there should be to protect the birds and the island. And the people who come to this island to enjoy nature with their families, neighbors and friends are respectful of the land and of the birds. When evaluating threats to the bird population, the human population represents only 1% of the problem (per presentation by Mass Audubon to the Cotuit Civic Association this winter).
It has worked well for many years.
However, taking 11 acres of the island that is in the closest proximity to the Cotuit shore will greatly reduce the shore area of the island where beach goers are allowed, and make it more difficult, and for some, impossible to even get there. It will also eliminate existing Piping Plover nesting habitat which could be improved with simple vegetation management.
While this dredging project would provide beach nourishment to the eastern end of the island known as Dead Neck, it is at too great a cost.
The most immediate benefit from this this nourishment goes to a few multimillionaires whose properties on Grand Island are protected by the eastern end of the barrier island, Dead Neck. Many are deprived and a few benefit. This really is not environmental justice.
Certainly, this is not intentional … but it is the end result.
There are other feasible options such as dredging the main channels in Nantucket Sound coming into Osterville and Cotuit. The process of “sand mining” was used successfully by the Woods Hole Group recently to nourish Long Beach in Centerville, another village in the town of Barnstable. Routine maintenance dredging of the channel coming in to Cotuit by a hundred or so feet also makes great sense.
This ongoing problem of beach erosion at the eastern end of dead neck, caused by the jetties that were built to protect the Osterville cut should create a full discussion of ways to prevent this continuing problem.
Other communities that have seen this same problem, also have seen that when some rocks in then jetties were removed by natural forces, the sand was able to flow through to the beach on the other side.
Witness the large amounts of sand building up on the eastern side of the Osterville cut.
This would likely reduce the erosion and maintenance dredging as the channel fills in over a number of years could possibly be all that is needed to maintain the eastern end of Dead Neck that will continue to have some erosion as long as the channel and jetties are in place. It is not likely that the problem could be eliminated; but in could likely be reduced by the removal of a small area of jetty. This deserves serious consideration and analysis.
Respectfully, we ask that MEPA require a full review of this project and require that an alternative study of solutions, and cost analysis, be done by an independent agency and paid for by Three Bays Preservation, Inc. and the Massachusetts Audubon Society.
Barnstable Residents and/or Tax Payers Listed Below:
This petition closed almost 2 years ago
More research is needed before this massive dredging project is approved. It is not routine maintenance and therefore should have a full MEPA review and an Environmental Impact Report.