Cape Cod’s postglacial coasts are valued ecological, recreational and community resources as well as a laboratories for observing coastal dynamics. Nauset Beach refers to a system of barriers and spits above the “elbow” of Cape Cod that have been transported and re-deposited in seasonal and multi-year cycles. Nauset barrier beach is entirely within the jurisdiction of Cape Cod National Seashore (Seashore) and spans the Towns of Orleans and Chatham.
On April 15-16, 2007 a spring nor’easter coincided with spring tides and caused inundation and overwash of several sites along Nauset Beach. A breach in the barrier beach in Chatham gradually evolved into a persistent inlet, growing slowly throughout the summer and expanding more rapidly in late winter 2008. The breach was monitored via cooperative efforts between the Seashore, the Town of Chatham and the Pleasant Bay Alliance (a local non-profit) and observations were shared with resource managers, town officials and the public through forums, government meetings and the local press. The management response essentially followed existing National Park Service (NPS) policies and the consensus of town voters which dictated that coastal processes be allowed to continue unimpeded. In the short term, large volumes of sediment have been transported into the Pleasant Bay system and tidal circulation within the estuary has been re-oriented and increased. As many as 13 seasonal beach cottages have been inundated or removed and navigation for the Town’s commercial and recreational fishing fleet has become more complicated due to sediment shoaling in channels.
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