In West Haven, a Renourished Beach to Absorb the Worst Waves From Coastal Storms | Connecticut Public Radio

In West Haven, a Renourished Beach to Absorb the Worst Waves From Coastal Storms

Mar 17, 2016

Tons of sand traveled from Cape Cod to the shoreline of a beach in West Haven. It’s part of a project to build a spot for recreational beach-goers and protect millions of dollars of buried coastal infrastructure. 

If you have a child who likes heavy machinery, that youngster would have loved to been at Savin Rock Beach in West Haven earlier this month. Tri-axle trucks were everywhere, queued up in a line, as they waited to flip up their beds and dump tons of sand.

"And we have a large [bulldozer] that is pushing the sand around on the beach," said Mark Paine, assistant commissioner of public works for West Haven.

As we stood on a sidewalk a few feet away from that massive bulldozer, Paine described a $1.25 million beach restoration project. The sand is being dumped to make the beach more suitable for recreation, but he said the project is also critical to building a more resilient coast.

"During Irene we lost the sidewalk here," Paine said. "During Sandy, we would have been standing in about three feet of water here."

Paine said those storms damaged homes and businesses near the shoreline.

The beach is right across the street from Chick's Drive-In, an iconic destination, which closed its doors last year following the death of its owner. 

Sand was transported from Cape Cod by barge, which docked in New Haven, and was offloaded to tri-axle dump trucks like the two pictured above. The sand was then trucked down Beach Street to Savin Rock, across from the old Chick's Drive-In.
Credit Patrick Skahill / WNPR

As Paine pointed a road running parallel to the beach, he said the specter of more coastal flooding means a bigger coastal barrier is needed to protect buried utilities.

"You have sanitary sewer lines. You have storm drain lines. You have water lines. You have sometimes, electric, natural gas," Paine said. "There's an awful lot that people drive over they aren't aware of."

Paine said a re-nourished beach acts as natural "energy attenuator," absorbing water from aggressive storm waves.

Since Long Island Sound has short, choppy waves that stack close together, he said it's important engineers don't slope the sand too steep relative to the ocean. Because then, Paine said, "It's kind of like getting taken out at the knees. The waves come in, they hit the slope in the middle, and that starts to wash out, and then the top of it just collapses, and you get some really, really fast erosion."

According to the mayor's office, the beach re-nourishment project at Savin Rock is complete, which means the spot will be open for beach-goers this summer.