Westerly seeks federal help for dune repairs

Providence -- Rhode Island U.S. Rep. James Langevin toured a coastal community hard hit by Superstorm Sandy on Monday and vowed to push for federal assistance that could help rebuild dunes to protect businesses and homes from tidal floods.

Langevin said federal assistance could help Westerly’s Misquamicut Beach if Congress approves additional funding for the Army Corps of Engineers in the next round of federal storm assistance. The House is set to vote on the aid package next week.

Westerly is seeking several million dollars in assistance for repairs following Sandy, which washed away Misquamicut’s dunes and left the area vulnerable to flooding at high-tide even as beachfront business owners seek to rebuild before the summer tourist season.

“Without those dunes acting as barriers to the surf, everything they’re working on just gets washed away,” said Langevin, a Democrat, following his tour.

Congress has already signed off on $9.7 billion in Sandy-related aid. But the House has yet to vote on another $51 billion in help to states impacted by the October storm. It remains to be seen how much of that money would go to Rhode Island.

While Sandy damaged areas along all of Rhode Island’s southern coast, Westerly was perhaps hardest hit, with scores of beachfront homes flooded, coastal roads washed out and tons of golden sand carried away.

At Misquamicut Beach the storm washed away hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of sand, leaving beachfront businesses without a line of protective dunes. Flooding at high tide is threatening to undermine recovery efforts, Langevin said.

Much of the sand carried away by Sandy ended up in coastal streets and neighborhoods. Crews moved an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 cubic yards of sand to the Misquamicut State Beach parking lot. Officials hope to move the sand back to the beach, but first must remove nails, glass, wood and other debris.


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