In 2003, Falmouth’s Coastal Resources Working Group (a group of local scientists and concerned citizens that has since been disbanded) provided its first of two reports to town officials, entitled “The Future of Falmouth’s South Shore.” In the introduction, the authors actually lay out two possible futures – one if we continue on our past path of attempting to ignore or stop the inevitable, and one if we get our act in gear and start making the tough decisions that the realities of sea level rise and erosion demand. Here’s what they call the ‘business as usual’ scenario for 2100 (my emphasis):
- Beaches will be present only where maintained by beach nourishment; few, if any, dunes will remain. Beach nourishment will become progressively more expensive as nearby sand resources are depleted.
- The loss of the protective beaches and dunes will expose both public infrastructure (roads, bridges, water pipelines) and private property to the damaging effects of storms. The maintenance costs to the Town and to individuals will rise, and those increases will accelerate as sea level continues to rise.
- Beaches will have retreated landward, with the possibility of breaks through the barrier beaches becoming more likely. Such breaks would expose property on the salt ponds to the waves of the open water of Vineyard Sound, and potentially cause serious disruption to channels for navigation into and out of the south shore ponds.
- The shoreline will be pervasively armored, which will decrease the usability of the shore.
- The need for, and cost of, emergency reaction to storm damage will increase.
After reading through this a few times, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was a “1″ in the wrong place. Maybe they meant 2010? After all, the shoreline is already “pervasively armored,” a good storm is all it takes to cover Surf Drive with sand, and I can’t remember the last time I saw a natural dune on Falmouth’s south coast, with the possible exception of Waquoit Bay – which the report notes is the only significant stretch of natural coastline remaining on Falmouth’s south shore. But perhaps I was overreacting, misremembering.
So I took a little drive, starting here in Woods Hole and ending just shy of Menauhant Beach, whose dunes have been significantly reconstructed, and Waquoit Bay. Along the way, I snapped photos of seawalls and jetties, as well as the remains of a couple homes already claimed by the sea. But my main target was dunes. Here’s what I found.
A hint of a would-be dune? Thin strips of dune grass can be found along portions of Surf Drive.
Elsewhere on Surf Drive, there are rocks and dune fencing, but no dunes.