Fairfield looking to ‘engineer’ its shoreline beaches
FAIRFIELD — Sometimes, Mother Nature may need a little help.
The town wants to make its shoreline beaches “engineered” beaches, but it’s not something most visitors would likely notice.
“Engineered beaches are designed with a cross-section and sand grain size to promote stability, i.e. minimal erosion, on the beaches,” Public Works Director Joseph Michelangelo said. “If we continually and regularly maintain the specified beach profile, erosion is less likely to occur.”
Following Superstorm Sandy in 2012, town officials initially sought to appropriate $700,000 to replenish the public beaches. It was expected that the cost would be covered by a reimbursement from FEMA. However, that didn’t happen.
“Our beaches were not eligible for nourishment with sand after Storm Sandy because FEMA did not consider our beaches, or Stratford, Norwalk, etc., to be engineered beaches,” Michelangelo said.
According to the Army Corps of Engineers permit application, the work to make the beaches “engineered” beaches, includes placing excavated material below the high tide line to prevent on-going erosion and create storm resiliency. The beaches would be graded and scraped from the mean low water mark to the high tide line to maintain the beach profile.
The plan calls for 500 cubic yards of sandy material at Southport, Pine Creek and Sasco beaches, 1,300 cubic yards at Jennings beach and 700 cubic yards at Penfield.
The town is asking for a 10-year permit to allow it to nourish the beaches in the future, and they will be monitored each year to assess the need for nourishment.
“We don’t expect the annual maintenance of the beach profiles to be costly,” Michelangelo said. “My initial estimation is that this will be a 1-2 week process every fall. In any given year there is an ebb & flow of the sand on the beaches; some may have excess and some may be a little light.”
Michelangelo said it should balance out and allow the town to maintain the beach profiles without purchasing sand from an outside source. He said sand from future harbor dredging projects can be used to replenish the beach, but the material would have to be the proper grain size, among other requirements.
“If there is not enough sand from our other beaches, or a harbor dredging project, it may require the importing of sand,” Michelangelo said. He estimated that would cost anywhere from $20 to $40 a cubic yard.
The ACE has made a preliminary determination that site-specific adverse effects will not be substantial. The comment period closed July 5.
“The time period for making a Corps permit decision can vary greatly from one permit request to another,” according to Tim Dugan, from the ACE New England District, and generally depends on the responses received to the public notice. “There could be issues, concerns or problems that are raised during the public comment period that need to be addressed before a permit decision is made that may take more time to resolve.
However, he said, the goal is to make a permit decision within 120 days of the receipt of a complete permit application.