Town seeking fill sources for revetment project

Thu, 04/11/2019 - 5:30pm
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The Town of New Shoreham is short on capping material for its $1,995,000 West Beach stabilization project, leading the town to explore local resources. Town officials said the value of a local resource is that it’s far less expensive than having to buy and ship the material to the island. The West Beach revetment project, as it’s known, involves cleaning the beach, restoring the revetment slope, and capping the town’s old landfill. The revetment was breached during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, leading to pollution of the shoreline. 

Town Manager Ed Roberge told The Times that while the unit price for the material is fixed at $100 per cubic yard, the cost of sourcing it locally would be “cost effective.”

Building Official Marc Tillson agreed. Sourcing the material from the mainland means “additional costs,” he said, “such as loading and offloading the material onto a boat” and paying for chartering a vessel to transport it to the island.

Tillson said, “There are a lot of old sand and gravel pits on the island” to source material. He noted that for a property owner to sell the material they need to obtain a special use permit from the Zoning Board for what the zoning ordinance calls “earth removal.”

Roberge said all of the capping material needs to meet residential standards, meaning that it needs to be absent of hazardous materials and be environmentally safe. Roberge said the material used for the project is being regulated by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. The project’s contractor, Pawtucket-based RC&D, Inc., is responsible for evaluating the material prior to using it at the work site.    

“We need to make sure that any material we use qualifies for the project,” said Roberge. “We want to make sure any source is a legitimate source,” he said, before noting that “if there’s an opportunity to be resourceful it makes all the sense in the world for the community to support that.”

Roberge said the town and the contractor are exploring three options for supplying the material: (1) using a local source; (2) importing it on a barge; and (3) maintaining the current source, by continuing to have the material shipped via the ferry, or a charter vessel.

“We’re trying to pull together the rest of the capping material to complete the project,” said Roberge, who noted that about 15 percent of the work needs to be completed to finish the project. When asked if there is value in utilizing a local source for supplying the material, Roberge said, “I can’t imagine that there isn’t value in a local source.”

One local source Roberge said the town and contractor were evaluating is Cathy Payne’s property on Plat 10, Lot 22, next to Payne Farm. “It is a legitimate pit source that’s being evaluated for material quality and quantity. The contractor is evaluating that source.”  

In an email to Roberge, Tillson described Payne’s property as the “sand pit” lot, and said she needs to furnish a zoning certificate to document its prior existing, non-conforming use. He also noted that: “Sand and gravel removal from residentially zoned properties is a hot topic throughout the state. We agree that the town has a responsibility to require appropriate documentation that the earth removal business is a lawful use before entering into an agreement to purchase fill for the town’s use.”

In an email to Payne, Roberge agreed with Tillson and thought his “suggestion to have the owner apply for a zoning certificate to document the prior existing, non-conforming use of the sand and gravel pit operation is beneficial in two ways. First, it documents and supports the historic use of that portion of the Payne site for that use, now and in the future. Secondly, based on the requirements of the landfill project to certify material source and quality, this would allow us to substantiate the source of materials for use.”

Payne told The Times that she didn’t feel that she needed a zoning certificate since her property preexisted zoning on the island. “I’ve lived here for 35 years,” she said, noting that she is the fifth generation of her family to reside on the property. She said that contractors have utilized her property for projects in the past.

“I have the material, and I’m willing to sell it to the town for the project,” said Payne. “My house was built on a gravel pit. I inherited the gravel pit. It’s a hole in the ground.” 

Payne said that Joe Sprague, an island contractor working with RC&D on the project, approached her about the use of the material. “I’ve been waiting for the town to get back to me,” she said. “I need to make the best use of my land. They need the material, and I’m willing to help.” 

As for the status of the West Beach stabilization project, Roberge said that restoration of “the revetment wall is complete. The whole slope side has been final graded. Beach grass has been planted, and the walking path is in place. The contractor just needs to finalize the capping grade on the main site,” which is located between the walking path and the active landfill. 

Despite the material shortage, Roberge said the project was on budget and on time. “We’re moving forward,” he said. “We need to make sure to keep the flow of materials coming.” 

Construction on the project began in May of 2018, and the project is expected to be completed by May 22, 2019.