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Coastal Engineering Company of Orleans Cape Cod
April 04, 2017

New Break in Chatham’s South Beach

Storm-driven waves plowed through a low-lying washover on April 1 and carved out a new inlet connecting the Atlantic Ocean and Nantucket Sound.

New Break Chatham

Town officials have been concerned that a breach immediately south of the main break was imminent and that it would hasten the closure of the 1987 break the Chatham commercial fishing fleet - one of the largest and most active fleets in New England - uses to access the Atlantic from the municipal fishing pier and the mooring fields of Aunt Lydia’s and Ryder’s coves.

The newest inlet, if it remains viable, would divert some of the energy of the incoming tide into Nantucket Sound. The resulting weakened tidal current would be unable to clear the sand being deposited across the mouth of the 1987 inlet, making it an increasingly dangerous passage for fishermen in recent years.

It is said that all rivers flow into the ocean, but the sea is never full; the same came be said about the coastal shoreline, as rising ocean levels claim more of the land mass as destructive ocean waves wear away the coast. But what the ocean takes, the ocean gives back in the form of sediments that are transported down drift in form of sand deposits which forms and reforms the beach.

Geologists believe the energy of the outgoing tide will be redirected to the 2007 break and carve out a navigable channel commercial vessels can use, but no one can predict when. Until then, fishermen could be stuck with no dependable way out to the Atlantic and may have to find refuge elsewhere. Many moved their vessels to Saquatucket Harbor in Harwich this winter, and the town has an article on its upcoming town meeting asking authorization to create additional commercial moorings in Stage Harbor.

This series of articles written by Cape Cod Life Publications describes the changing shape of shoreline in various locations throughout Cape Cod. If you are concerned about coastal erosion on your property, please refer to our article describing coastal beach risk assessment and available shoreline stabilization techniques.