The coast is a very dynamic environment and coastal shorelines—especially beaches, dunes, and banks—change constantly in response to wind, waves, tides, and other factors such as seasonal variation, sea level rise, and human alterations to the shoreline system. The movement of sediment along the coast and the loss and gain of shoreline—erosion and accretion—are continuous and interrelated processes. In Massachusetts, eroding coastal landforms are the primary sources of sand that created and continue to feed our beaches and dunes. While erosion is necessary and natural, it also causes damage to coastal property and related infrastructure and can have adverse effects on beaches and other habitat.
The 2014 Budget Bill included a section that established a Coastal Erosion Commission. This commission is charged with investigating and documenting the levels and impacts of coastal erosion in the Commonwealth and developing strategies and recommendations to reduce, minimize, or eliminate the magnitude and frequency of coastal erosion and its adverse impacts on property, infrastructure, public safety, and beaches and dunes.
Specifically, the commission was asked to evaluate erosion levels since 1978 and assess the resulting financial damage to property, infrastructure, and beach and dune resources—and to also estimate the likely cost of damages over the next 10 years under current conditions, regulations, and laws. Based on those assessments, the commission shall evaluate all current rules, regulations, and laws governing the materials, methodologies, and means that may be used to guard against and reduce or eliminate the impacts of coastal erosion and shall examine any possible changes, expansions, reductions, and laws that would improve the ability of municipalities and private property owners to guard against or reduce or eliminate the impacts of coastal erosion without undue adverse environmental impacts. For the complete charge to the commission, see Section 200 of the FY 2014 Budget Bill.
On January 7, the commission issued its draft report for a 90-day public review and comment. See the January 2015 DRAFT Report and Recommendations of the Coastal Erosion Commission web page to download a copy of the report.
Coastal Erosion Commission Representatives:
- Marty Suuberg, Undersecretary for Environment (Designee of Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew A. Beaton)
- Bruce Carlisle, Director of Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management
- David Cash, Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection
- Jack Murray, Commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Recreation
- Patricia Hughes, Town of Brewster Selectwoman
- Lisa O’Donnell, Town of Essex Selectwoman
- Doug Packer, Town of Newbury Conservation Commission
- Anne Herbst, Town of Hull Conservation Commission
- Jack Clarke, Mass Audubon
- E. Robert Thieler, U.S. Geological Survey
- Ron Barrett, Plum Island Taxpayers Association
- Paul Schrader, Citizen, Town of Sandwich
Commission Meetings and Updates:
The first meeting of the Coastal Erosion Commission was held on March 27, 2014 in Boston. The meeting agenda included the introduction of commission members, review of its charge, review of proposed plan for its meetings, and establishment and preliminary tasking of working groups. Presentations were made on: summaries of related national and state erosion management reviews and reports ; overview of coastal geology, coastal processes, and shoreline management practices file size 5MB; and work underway on shoreline change file size 6MB and shoreline characterization file size 2MB.
The second meeting of the Coastal Erosion Commission was held on July 31, 2014 in Boston. The meeting agenda included review of the input and information received at the public workshops, updates from the three working groups, and next steps.
The third meeting of the Coastal Erosion Commission was held on October 16, 2014 in Boston. The meeting agenda included the review and discussion of the working group reports, initial deliberations on preliminary recommendations, and plans for development of its draft report.
The fourth meeting of the Coastal Erosion Commission was held on November 6, 2014 in Boston, The meeting agenda included the review, discussion, and revision of the draft recommended strategies and actions, and the review and approval of an outline for its report.
The fifth meeting of the Coastal Erosion Commission was held on December 5, 2014 in Boston. The meeting agenda included the review of a draft report and discussion of next steps.
In May and June, the commission held a series of regional workshops to introduce the commission and its charge, present information related to coastal erosion and shoreline management approaches, seek public and stakeholder feedback, and communicate the commission’s process and next steps. The workshop dates and locations were:
- South Coast Region - May 21, Buzzards Bay Coalition, New Bedford.
- Boston Harbor Region - May 22, Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Boston.
- North Shore Region - May 28, Gloucester City Hall, Gloucester.
- Cape Cod and Islands Region - June 3, Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates Chamber, Barnstable.
- South Shore Region - June 16, Marshfield Senior Center, Marshfield.
The workshop agenda included: presentations on the basics of coastal processes and shoreline management approaches file size 4MB and on Coastal Erosion Commission background, context, and next steps file size 6MB and group discussion on such topics as science and mapping needs, best management practices, and local assistance. A report summarizing the workshops was developed by the facilitation team at the Consensus Building Institute.
As part of the workshops, CZM presented a series of maps and summary charts for the commission that compiled detailed information along 50-meter segments of more than 1,000 miles of exposed open-water facing shoreline. Using data on shoreline change, presence of coastal structures, wetland resource areas, and land use, the shoreline characterization and change analyses profiles contain information for each of the 57 coastal communities assessed, organized by five regions:
- North Shore Region file size 5MB
- Boston Harbor Region file size 2MB
- South Shore file size 3MB
- Cape Cod and Islands file size 5MB
- South Coast file size 5MB
Working Group Meetings and Updates:
The Coastal Erosion Commission has established three working groups to provide assistance in completing its charge: Science and Technical Working Group; Erosion Impacts Working Group; and Legal and Regulatory Working Group. For details, see the working group tasks .
Erosion Impacts Working Group
This working group has held the following meetings:
- April 25, 2014, meeting in Framingham - The meeting agenda included discussion of the group’s tasks and development of a plan for gathering relevant information.
- May 5, 2014, meeting in Framingham - The meeting agenda included updates regarding additional sources of damage data and identification of next steps to address assigned tasks.
- July 30, 2014, meeting in Boston - The meeting agenda focused on determining a methodology to estimate coastal erosion expected over the next 10 years.
For questions about the Erosion Impacts Working Group, please contact Rebecca Haney at Rebecca.firstname.lastname@example.org or (617) 626-1228.
Legal and Regulatory Working Group
This working group has held the following meetings:
- May 22, 2014, meeting in Lakeville - The meeting agenda included discussion of the tasks charged to the group and the development of a plan for gathering and developing the information requested by the deadlines indicated.
- June 19, 2014, meeting in Boston - The meeting agenda included continued discussions on tasks charged to the group and development of a plan for gathering the information requested by the deadlines indicated.
- July 28, 2014, meeting in Boston - The meeting agenda included discussions on the review of the proposed draft recommendations to the commission..
For questions about the Legal and Regulatory Working Group, please contact Robert Boeri, Robert.Boeri@state.ma.us or (617) 626-1050.
Science and Technology Working Group
The next meeting of the Coastal Erosion Commission’s Science and Technical Working Group will be held on Thursday, December 4 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management, 251 Causeway St., Suite 800, Boston, MA. The agenda will focus on finalizing the draft Working Group report.
This working group has held the following meetings:
- September 19, 2014 meeting in Lakeville - The meeting agenda was focused on finalizing the Working Group’s report to the commission.
- September 3, 2014, meeting in Lakeville - The meeting agenda focused on evaluating methodologies for managing coastal erosion, evaluating methodologies for identifying high hazard areas, and making recommendations to the commission regarding strategies related to the science and technical aspects of reducing the impacts of coastal erosion.
- July 30, 2014, meeting in Boston - The meeting agenda focused on determining a methodology to estimate coastal erosion expected over the next 10 years and discussion of preliminary recommendations for the commission. Several Erosion Impacts Working Group members were also in attendance.
For questions about the Science and Technology Working Group, please contact Rebecca Haney at Rebecca.email@example.com or (617) 626-1228.
For additional information on this topic, see:
- Massachusetts Coastal Hazards Commission - Convened in 2006, the Coastal Hazards Commission was charged with reviewing existing coastal hazards practices and policies, identifying data and information gaps, and drafting recommendations for administrative, regulatory, and statutory changes. The commission produced a final report in 2007 that includes recommendations to improve the management of risk from coastal hazards in Massachusetts.
- StormSmart Coasts - Launched in 2008, the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management’s (CZM) StormSmart Coasts program assists communities and people working and living on the coast by providing information, strategies, and tools to help address challenges arising from erosion, flooding, storms, sea level rise, and other climate change impacts. The program also works to promote effective management of coastal landforms, such as beaches and dunes.
- Massachusetts Shoreline Change Project - Part of the StormSmart Coasts program, the Shoreline Change Project provides scientific data and information on shoreline trends, including long-term (~150-year) and short-term (~30-year) erosion and accretion rates.