Damage to the seawall along Gooch's Beach in Kennebunk from last year's March storms is shown. Credit: Jonathan Bryant | York County Coast Star

The town of Kennebunk has received $1.8 million in funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to repair damage caused by two powerful nor’easters that crumbled part of the seawall and tore apart sections of the sidewalk and road at Middle and Gooch’s Beach in March of 2018.

Last June, President Donald Trump granted a disaster declaration for York County towns affected by the back-to-back storms that battered the coastline, causing nearly $1.5 million in damage in Kennebunk alone.

Town officials met with officials from FEMA and the Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) to survey the damage to the roads and seawall at Kennebunk Beach beginning last June, Town Engineer Chris Osterreider said.

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Beach Avenue and several adjoining residential streets saw significant flooding and storm damage during the relentless nor’easters that battered the Seacoast during the first weekend in March 2018. The Beach Avenue sidewalk collapsed in several areas, including a long stretch near the sharp corner by the Seaside Inn, leaving buckled asphalt with large holes underneath where the rocks and sand were washed away.

The nor’easter coincided with an astronomical high tide, and each high tide cycle brought waves crashing over seawalls, and flood waters flowing over roadways and into low-lying residences and businesses.

Repairs were done last spring in order to make the beaches and sidewalks safe for residents and visitors over the summer, but many of those repairs are temporary, said Town Manager Mike Pardue.

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Osterreider said the town received a higher total from FEMA than the original damage estimates because town officials were able to show that improving the way the seawall is repaired will increase the likelihood that it will last longer and withstand storms and sea level rise better.

The stone revetment along Middle Beach washed away or was compromised in several places, according to Osterreider, prompting a change in the size of rocks that will be put in place when the revetment is rebuilt.

“Normally FEMA says you can put back what was there previously. But we were able to show them that larger rocks will perform better,” Osterreider said.

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The stones used in the revetment along the seawall at Middle Beach will be removed and replaced with very large – car sized – stones as part of the upgraded repairs slated to being this November, Osterreider said.

The town was notified of the final FEMA figure last Thursday, and were given the green light to proceed with repairs. Both Osterreider and Pardue said the process of working with FEMA officials went very smoothly.

“There was a definite spirit of cooperation and they seemed to be really open to looking toward the future to mitigate future occurrences,” Pardue said.

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At Gooch’s Beach the steel seawall that runs from Narragansett Point to about Crescent Avenue will be extended all the way down to the elbow of Beach Avenue near the Seaside Inn, Osterreider said.

He said the wooden timbers put in place as part of the seawall many years ago are at the end of their lifespan and would have had to be addressed soon anyway.

The sidewalk at Gooch’s Beach, which is currently asphalt, will be replaced with concrete.

As part of the repairs, the town plans to make the beach more accessible with an ADA compliant access ramp near the beach outhouses at Narragansett Point, Osterreider said.

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“Currently access to the beach is limited, so we envision improving that on that corner,” Pardue said. “This will have a lot of benefits to our residents and visitors.”

Pardue credited Osterreider and Public Works Director Brian Laverriere along with other town crew members with keeping meticulous and thorough records from the moment the storm clean-up began, which helped immensely with clearly identifying the damage and associated costs to present to FEMA.

“This process started with an assessment of the damages, and then moved to immediate repairs, and now with the help of FEMA we have a strong plan to mitigate future damage with enhanced repairs,” Pardue said.

Osterreider expects the work to begin at the beach in late fall and continue through the winter, with project completion anticipated for the 2020 summer season.