Storm impacts fragile bluffs

Fri, 03/09/2018 - 8:15am

The following text and photos were submitted by Nigel Grindley:

As a member of the team that monitors coastal erosion on the island, I took a portfolio of photos immediately before and after the storm. The images show the extent of bluff erosion north of Scotch Beach, as well as the futility of placing snow fencing at the base of bluffs.  

This past summer, snow fencing was installed at the bluffs just north of Scotch Beach. The first image, taken on Thursday, March 1, shows the state of the fencing before the storm; it was already rather battered and, most notably, had no sand accumulation behind it. The second image, taken on Sunday, March 4, shows the effect of the storm, which both destroyed the fencing and washed away a significant amount of the bluff base. The gap between the old fence posts and the bluff base is about 10 feet — and 14 feet at the widest points. Not surprisingly, a tangle of the wires was left mostly still attached to the bare posts at the top of the beach and a litter of the wooden slats was scattered down the shore and into the Scotch Beach parking lot. Interestingly, most of the erosion was a result of the tidal surge that occurred during the days and hours after the storm.

I should also add that snow fencing, placed at appropriate places, can be effective in rebuilding and stabilizing dunes. A good example is seen immediately to the north of the Scotch Beach entry passage (and well to the south of the bluffs described above). Here, the fencing that was put in place after Superstorm Sandy had washed away a large area of dunes, has encouraged substantial dune restoration; these dunes largely withstood the onslaught of this recent storm even though the sea washed through part of the (partially buried) fence.