Spit Update

Spit Update

As you know, Save Popponesset Bay is the owner of 2/3 of the Spit, with the eastern third, owned by Mass Audubon. The entire Spit is home to the endangered plovers and terns. The State owns the section of the Spit immediately at the bottom of the Fisherman’s landing stairs. Since its most depleted state in 2014, we (SPB) have raised, from our neighbors and friends, and invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in trucked sand, dredged sand from the outer channel leading to Nantucket Sound, and the purchase and planting of dune grass to anchor the new sand for the Spit. We have provided security in partnership with PBA and our partner Mass Audubon. We have short time windows each year to perform these critical dredging and construction activities due to various Federal, State and Town laws and regulations related to various fish species and the arrival and breeding of the plovers and terns and other wildlife.

Why is there a lack of sand on the western end of the Spit this year?

This February, we again completed the trucking of thousands of cubic yards of sand plus new beach grass which has substantially built the dune closest to Audubon land. However, the Barnstable County dredge program, which has a contract with the Town of Mashpee (not SPB), made a decision this winter to direct the dredge and booster pump (which builds up the beach in front of the state stairs extending to the second crossover from the ocean to the bay) to Chatham. This decision was extremely detrimental to the health of the Spit. As you will notice when walking the beach, the dredge sand spoils are absolutely critical to the sustainability of the Spit. SPB, Mashpee Waterways Commission and the two marinas all spoke at the Mashpee Selectmen meeting on this issue to emphasize the safety implications of not dredging. The Town was ultimately successful in convincing the Barnstable County dredge program to send a dredge however they were not able to send the critical booster pump and piping needed to deliver the sand so critical to the corner and beach. The dredging effort did succeed in making the outer channel safe, helping to avoid serious boating safety injuries to unprepared boaters who rely on an annually dredged channel. So, the Barnstable County dredge succeeded in dredging the outer channel but the 5,000 cubic yards of sand was pumped onto the middle portion of the Spit well short of the beach and corner by the stairs which is owned by the State of MA. This, combined with a fierce storm in April created a small cliff in the now unprotected dune. This section of the Spit is not as beautiful as previous years when it was covered by the sand pulled from the outer channel. (For those interested, the trucked sand is more coarse than the dredged sand that has been smoothed by centuries of churning in the ocean.) SPB has requested permission from the State of MA to make repairs to the sand to shape the “cliff”, but we are not optimistic, given the reluctance of the State to approve any construction activities while in bird season. Our hands are unfortunately now tied by the State of MA.

What about the future?

The good news is that Barnstable County has purchased a second dredge (https://www.capenews.net/bourne/news/new-dredge-coming-to-cape-cod/article_cf15f142-1a81-535f-a7cd-1d71af75b7d6.html) to keep up with increased demand for dredging projects like the outer channel for the Town of Mashpee.

While our beach is not in the condition that any of us would like this year, we want you to know that going forward, providing we do not have any more dredge problems, the Spit should be more resilient with the clean beautiful sandy beach we have always enjoyed. And with your financial support of the longer, wider, deeper outer channel project we will have a much larger beach as the projected estimates are that this will produce an additional 40,000 cubic yards of good sand. We really are hopeful that everyone will contribute to fund this project, not just boaters, as this is the source of the sand to make our beach beautiful for all to enjoy!

Also, after three years of significant work and approximately $300,000 in various studies and engineering, partly funded by a grant from the State of MA, SPB has recently filed an expanded ENF with the State which officially kicks off the permitting process for the longer, wider and deeper outer channel. This longer, wider, deeper outer channel project, when completed, will provide a significant, renewable, larger annual source of high quality sand to support the Spit as well as result in significant improvements to the outer channel, improving boating safety and water quality.

How can I help?

Volunteer:

We are always looking for volunteers who are passionate about SPB to be ambassadors of our mission. We empower you to promote our cause and protect our beach and bay. Currently, we are looking for community members to help facilitate community engagement, and expertise in grant writing, fundraising, marketing and website operations. Please contact Kathy Cramer (kccramer@comcast.net) if you would like to get more involved!

Communicate:

We greatly appreciate the Town of Mashpee’s efforts regarding dredging; however, we are asking that our supporters encourage the Town to step up for the big new channel project as well. Also, read the Mashpee Enterprise to stay informed.

Contribute:

We ALL need to continue to contribute to fund the expanded channel project and annual dune replenishment work as this work is critical to the health of the Spit and bay. We also appreciate the financial contributions which have paid for the remarkable turnaround achieved since 2014 on the Spit. We still have much work to do so we appreciate your future financial contributions. SPB is an all-volunteer group, so 100% of funds raised go to our mission to maintain and protect the Spit, while keeping the waterways in and around Popponesset Bay safe and navigable.

Thank you again for your support and interest,

Save Popponesset Bay

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