Swampscott set to repair battered sea walls

People walk along the sea wall at King’s Beach in Swampscott, past a section that was damaged in the March storms of 2018. (Spenser R. Hasak)

SWAMPSCOTT — For the first phase of sea wall repairs, Swampscott could be spending $200,000.

Decades of storms and high tides have added to the structural damage of sea walls throughout the town, but the most significant damage was caused during the two nor’easters in 2018, according to Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald. The estimated costs for initial mitigation are only to deal with the sea wall damage on the Swampscott portion of King’s Beach.

“We are many years away from this, but eventually what could happen is the holes in these sea walls could go all the way through to the sidewalk and the road would collapse,” said DPW Director/Assistant Town Administrator for Operations Gino Cresta.

Rising sea levels and greater frequencies of astronomically high tides will only make the damage worse, said Fitzgerald. The $200,000 would be used to implement shotcrete, concrete sprayed through a hose and pneumatically projected at high velocity onto a surface, to protect the structural integrity of the wall.

Before adding layers of the sprayed concrete, Cresta said they will have to chip out the broken stone and replace the damaged rebar, some of which is dangerously peeking out of the wall. The town spoke with contractors and, for a full repair of the King’s Beach sea wall, received a quote of $600,000.

Fitzgerald said he wants to phase into the approach to spend more time thinking carefully about how the town can manage the waterfront as part of its master Harbor Plan. At the beginning of January, Fitzgerald, Cresta, and Fire Chief Kevin Breen met with FEMA representatives to discuss all the damage and the town is anticipating a reimbursement.

“They told us we were in good position but they had a lot of homework to do and they would be in touch with us,” said Fitzgerald. “They came by, took pictures, and saw firsthand some of the damage that occurred. I think they recognize that we have been impacted significantly in some of our key areas.”

Before asking “hardworking taxpayers” to foot the bill for the sea wall repairs, the town wants to work with representatives at the state and federal levels to find more monetary opportunities, said Fitzgerald.

The town also wants to find ways to not only repair the King’s Beach sea wall, and the sea walls along Fisherman’s Beach and Cassidy Park, but also to celebrate the town’s waterfront. Proposals within the Harbor Plan include investments that would help build resilience into the sea wall structures themselves, said Fitzgerald.

Over the next few months, town officials will dive deep into the strategies within the Harbor Plan and discuss how to protect the town from more frequent, high tide storms while creating spaces along the waterfront that can be used by the community.

“Before we spend too much money, let’s think more carefully about the kind of infrastructure we want to have on the waterfront,” said Fitzgerald.


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