Point Beach gets OK to modify beach groin

The Point Beach Improvement Association plans to modify a beach groin that it constructed without permits from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), following a unanimous decision by the Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) at its Sept. 1 meeting.

The board approved a special permit and coastal area site plan review to allow portions of the previously built groin to remain.

A previous wooden structure was destroyed by storms and the association replaced it with concrete blocks that extended further into the Long Island Sound at the corner of Platt Street and Morehouse Avenue. When the DEEP discovered the change, it issued a violation notice against the association.

In response to the notice, the association consulted with the DEEP and both organizations agreed a plan to shorten and lower the structure, which projects out in a perpendicular direction from the shore.

The length will decrease from 75 to 55 feet and the current height of 9.5 to 10.5 feet will be lowered by 2 feet. The change satisfies the DEEP’s concerns and ends the violation, once the changes are complete.

John Roberge, project engineer for the beach association, told the P&Z board that the groin is intended to protect the seawall and roadway at Platt Street. Roberge said the decrease in size would allow shells and sand to migrate along Point Beach.

P&Z member Thomas Nichol said he doubted that reducing the size would allow sand and shell migration.

“I think you are making a smaller catch basin for oyster shells and offering less protection for the beach,” Nichol said.

Roberge said the additional 20 to 25 feet of length was serving as a breakwater and was not retaining sand. He said the DEEP would like to minimize any such structures, and said shortening it meets this DEEP objective.

Three area residents spoke in favor of the project. Nancy Harris of 34 Virginia Street said she has lived for almost 20 years in the house directly south of the groin. Harris said the original wooden structure “allowed a lot of sand and shells to move.” She said the existing groin caused a build up of sand and shells, and the size reduction would “bring it back to more of the historical function” of the groin.

Marion Morra of 1 Platt Street said Hurricane Sandy damaged the road, and said she was in favor of the structure. “We have to make sure the wall is strong enough so it doesn’t happen again.”

Robert Stevens of 23 Platt Street described the structure as artificial and made of concrete, which causes shells to accumulate in front of the wall and does not allow them to migrate. He said the changes would improve the situation.

A look at the aerial view on Bing maps shows the previous wooden structure plus a second one to the north and a smaller one to the south. As an indication of when that photo was taken, only one of the new houses on Platt Street had been constructed.

By comparison, updated photos on Google maps show the concrete groin, and nothing where the two previous wooden groins had been built, and completed houses on Platt Street. In both photos, the sediments are noticeably wider on the Long Island Sound side of the groins.