At Popham, ‘there is no beach at high water’ as erosion worsens

Posted March 18, 2013, at 8:27 p.m.
Dan Delano of D&S Excavators works to place tons of rock in front of a string of buildings at Popham Beach in Phippsburg Monday. Delano has been working since January to protect the structures after nearly a decade of erosion washed away beach and 40 feet of lawns.
Dan Delano of D&S Excavators works to place tons of rock in front of a string of buildings at Popham Beach in Phippsburg Monday. Delano has been working since January to protect the structures after nearly a decade of erosion washed away beach and 40 feet of lawns. Buy Photo
Excavators work to place tons of rock in front of a string of buildings at Popham Beach in Phippsburg Monday. The work has been ongoing since January to protect the structures after nearly a decade of erosion washed away beach and 40 feet of lawns.
Excavators work to place tons of rock in front of a string of buildings at Popham Beach in Phippsburg Monday. The work has been ongoing since January to protect the structures after nearly a decade of erosion washed away beach and 40 feet of lawns. Buy Photo
Dan Delano of D&S Excavators works to place tons of rock in front of a string of buildings at Popham Beach in Phippsburg Monday. Delano has been working since January to protect the structures after nearly a decade of erosion washed away beach and 40 feet of lawns.
Dan Delano of D&S Excavators works to place tons of rock in front of a string of buildings at Popham Beach in Phippsburg Monday. Delano has been working since January to protect the structures after nearly a decade of erosion washed away beach and 40 feet of lawns. Buy Photo
Dan Delano of D&S Excavators works to place tons of rock in front of a string of buildings at Popham Beach in Phippsburg Monday. Delano has been working since January to protect the structures after nearly a decade of erosion washed away beach and 40 feet of lawns.
Dan Delano of D&S Excavators works to place tons of rock in front of a string of buildings at Popham Beach in Phippsburg Monday. Delano has been working since January to protect the structures after nearly a decade of erosion washed away beach and 40 feet of lawns. Buy Photo
Dan Delano of D&S Excavators points to where nearly a decade of erosion washed away beach and lawns in front of several buildings at Popham Baech in Phippsburg. Delano has been working since January, placing tons of rock in front of the buildings to try and protect them from ocean waves.
Dan Delano of D&S Excavators points to where nearly a decade of erosion washed away beach and lawns in front of several buildings at Popham Baech in Phippsburg. Delano has been working since January, placing tons of rock in front of the buildings to try and protect them from ocean waves. Buy Photo

PHIPPSBURG, Maine — Bright orange excavators clawed up boulder upon boulder Monday afternoon and placed them atop one another, shoring up a stone stabilization wall designed to hold off the pounding surf that, again this winter, has whittled away Popham Beach.

Many summer cottages at the edge of Popham Beach State Park have lost their “lawn,” said Dan Delano of D&S Excavating in Wiscasset, who was reinforcing the stone wall.

Lee Rainey, Phippsburg’s code enforcement officer, was more blunt: “There is no beach at high water.”

On Monday — as on most days since January — Delano worked to place boulders near homes abutting the state park.

The state park beach is now backed by C-curves of eroded dunes, dead tree trunks and nests of hanging roots.

“The state park lost an incredible amount of dirt,” Rainey said. “[The ocean] is almost to Route 209. It’s within 40 feet. Go to Google Earth, and you’ll see how fast it’s eroding. We’ve lost 400 to 500 feet during the last couple of years.”

The cottage closest to the park, owned by Betty Reid, lost about 40 feet of “lawn” recently, Delano said, despite the shoreline stabilization wall.

Erosion at the beach was common several years ago, and storms redirected the Morse River — temporarily, as experts predicted, as it has now returned to its previous course.

More alarming were high tides that threatened a bathhouse — but the erosion seemed to slow in 2010. But Rainey said that despite the shoreline stabilization wall built to help shield the homes from the force of the waves, “Mother Nature seems bound and determined to take it.”

Tuesday’s impending storm, he said, doesn’t bode well for the houses, or the beach.

“If we get the wind with it, it could be a bad day,” Rainey said.

But forecasters expect winds to be no more than 10-15 miles per hour with gusts topping out at 25-30 mph.

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