Where Would Wells Be without Our Beaches?
Have you ever wondered what the Town of Wells would be like without our beaches? Have you thought about what the quality of our local economy would be without the jobs in the hotels, campgrounds, restaurants, shops, the skilled trades like carpentry, plumbing and electrical that work along our beachfront would be without the draw our beaches provide? These are the questions I have struggled with since beginning to raise the concern about the condition of our beaches 25 years ago.
While we have had some efforts to renourish our beaches from dredging the harbor, 65,000 and 68,000 cubic yards in 2000 and 2013, these have been but band aid approaches to the massive loss of sand that both Wells Beach, especially at Casino Square, and Drakes Island Beach have endured through the years.
These are two pictures taken at Casino Square. The first was in 1982, the second this past January, both in front of the Casino Square observation deck. Our beaches are in trouble, the economic panic alarm is sounding and without some immediate influx of sand, and lots of it, we will lose this important part of Wells, our beaches, and many of the businesses, the jobs, and tax dollars generated from behind the seawall our beaches protect.
The good news is that we have an opportunity to purchase 375,000 cubic yards of marine sand from a dredge project in the Piscataqua River in Eliot. This material has been analyzed and tested; it is a perfect match for our beaches. The Maine Geologic Survey has worked with us and will continue to do so to determine where the most beneficial deposit of this sand, off shore, can be made to have the best and longest impact on renourishing our beaches.
The bad news is that some on the Board of Selectmen are now opposed to moving forward with this project. Their fear is that the sand will eventually flow into the harbor and the project would be a waste of money! True, some of the sand will eventually find its way into the harbor and yes we will have to dredge it back out of the harbor, again and again, back onto the beach. Sand continuously moves along our coastline, it isnít stagnant, and it needs to be replenished now and again, but that is the regular maintenance required of the harbor and the beaches, something we havenít done, to a great extent, to our beach infrastructure in a long time!
Some have suggested this is a debate between the Harbor users and the beach goers; that just isnít true. Nobody has worked harder to achieve several harbor and inlet dredges than me, while at the same time insuring that the sand from these projects makes it onto our beaches. We can have both. It takes coordination, cooperation and effort, working together, to achieve common goals in the best interest of all Wells residents and visitors alike.
On Tuesday, October 20th, at 7:00 PM the Board of Selectmen will hold a public hearing to determine if the town should move forward with this plan or drop it all together. If the selectmen agree the town will start the permitting and design process over the winter, meeting with geologists to maximize the disposal and finalizing the plans. Once permitted the town will then put forward a question, at Town Meeting, hopefully next June, to raise and appropriate the $1.2 million dollars the project will cost. While I understand that is a lot of money, this investment, in our beaches, at this point, is critical!
Please attend the meeting on the 20th. Encourage the selectmen to follow the plan weíve been working on for the past 3 years. The time is now to save our beaches and our economic viability. Nothing is more important to this town and our financial survival than making sure our beaches become healthy again and remain so for years to come. This 375,000 cubic yards of sand will be a good investment in our beach infrastructure and the economy it supports.
House District 7 - Wells