Marshfield: Justifying seawalls questioned

Looking at a street map of Marshfield doesn’t tell the story of the ocean and surface water surrounding the town. Thursday night’s Coastal Advisory Committee’s meeting discussed the water inundating the aptly named town.

The North River forms the north and northwest borders of the town. The South River from the north and Green River from the south nearly meet in the town center. The ocean has battered old sea walls on the east.

The town has undertaken a multi-million dollar replacement of those sea walls. The coastal advisory committee will make recommendations to selectmen on how the town should act in the future.

Committee members have begun to question the effectiveness of the new, deeply built, reinforced walls. They foresee a time when sea water eventually flows over and behind the walls. Member Ben Cowie-Haskell said building more seawalls is becoming”harder to justify.”

The committee heard a report of member Reed Stewart on sea level rise, on-shore currents and the Green River. He said Daniel Webster could sail a boat from his back yard off what is now Webster Street down the river to Brant Rock, until the town built a dike on what is now Dyke Road.

The dike turned much of the town, from Library Plaza to Brant Rock, from a tidal island to the developed real estate we see today. If sea level rise causes the dike to fail, Stewart said, water could inundate Marshfield to the town center.

A seawall in Marshfield

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About Charles Mathewson

Charles Mathewson worked in print journalism for more than two decades as a reporter and editor, and has won several regional and national awards. He resides in Plymouth where he writes fiction and paints, when not producing award-winning news as a reporter for WATD.