State Resolves Case with Town of Hull to Protect Nantasket Beach
BOSTON – Resolving allegations that it unlawfully removed naturally occurring cobble on Nantasket Beach, the Town of Hull has agreed to a settlement that will protect this natural resource in the future, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.
“We must safeguard the Commonwealth’s coastal wetlands, such as Nantasket Beach, which are important natural resources” said Attorney General Coakley. “We are very pleased that the Town of Hull and its Conservation Commission have cooperated with our office in stopping these beach alterations and rededicated itself to sound beach management to maximize the environmental and recreational value of the beach.”
According to the complaint, filed yesterday along with the final judgment in Suffolk Superior Court, the Town of Hull allegedly performed excavation work, known as “beach scraping,” to remove the stones from a large stretch of the beach. This work occurred even though the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) had previously denied the town permission to do so. As part of the settlement, the town has developed and adopted the North Nantasket Beach Management Plan to avoid future violations and is paying a $10,000 civil penalty.
According to the complaint, the Town of Hull violated the Wetlands Protection Act by using a front end loader to “scrape” large amounts of cobble, seaweed, and sand from Nantasket Beach in preparation for the summer beach season. Cobbles are naturally rounded or oval stones less than 10 inches in diameter, that are polished smooth by years of wave energy. They are alternatively exposed and covered by sand depending on the tides, waves and seasons of the year. Manipulating the amount and type of natural beach sediment can reduce the capacity of the beach to dissipate wave energy and avoid erosion.
Nantasket Beach is a barrier beach that is protected by the Commonwealth’s wetlands statute and the unauthorized excavation and grading of the beach can both damage valuable protected wetlands and make the beach, its dunes, and adjacent beachfront homes vulnerable to weather and tide related damage.
The management plan makes clear that the type of cobble removal that was the basis for this action is forbidden. Under the settlement, the town must monitor flooding patterns at the beach, hire an environmental consultant to assess the ongoing effectiveness of the Beach Management Plan, and report its findings to MassDEP and the Mass Coastal Zone Management office.
The purpose of the Wetlands Protection Act is to prevent damage to the Commonwealth’s wetlands, including its coastal dunes. Wetlands are valuable natural resources that help control flooding, prevent storm damage, prevent water pollution, and provide wildlife habitat. The Wetlands Protection Act authorizes a court to assess civil penalties of as much as $25,000 for each day that a violation of the act continues.
Assistant Attorney General Andrew Goldberg of Coakley’s Environmental Protection Division is handling the case. Heidi Zisch from MassDEP’s Office of General Counsel, and Rachel Freed from MassDEP’s Division of Wetlands and Waterways, are working with the Attorney General’s Office on the case.