During the recent winter storms and high tide cycles, thousands of gallons of sea water poured through a manmade opening in the seawall in Marshfield, badly flooding local streets and pooling in and around houses on Plymouth Avenue and Bay Street for weeks. These streets are located between Gurnet Road and the beach and sit in a low- lying area.
At one point, the water surrounding the homes was five feet high and had nowhere to go because there is no drainage in that area, said Stephen Callahan, president of the Webster Island Beach Association, that Duxbury neighborhood’s organization.
“It was bad,” Callahan said. “The neighborhood needed help. Basements were completely full. A lot of people couldn’t get to their houses for several days.”
The culprit of the severe flooding was a six to eight foot high opening in the seawall for beach access in Marshfield.
“During high tides and storms, the water runs through there and down those roads,” said Duxbury Department of
Public Works director Peter Buttkus. “During one storm, I was just watching the river come through there, and it is a river. The homes are in a bowl there.”
Callahan said the residents in this area were frustrated and felt forgotten because no one would come to their rescue during the flooding. Confusion over which town has jurisdiction in the area delayed assistance. The neighborhood hadn’t experienced flooding like this in over 20 years, not since the No Name storm of 1991, he said.
“It was the feeling of the neighborhood that Duxbury really doesn’t know what’s going on out here,” Callahan said. “We’re detached from town. You have to drive out of Duxbury to drive back in and there is confusion as to the names of the streets and the signage back there. There’s Kentucky Street and it’s a Marshfield street, but it’s at the beginning of the horseshoe. It runs right into Duxbury and it’s really Plymouth Ave.”
“They were very angry about how no one would help out down there,” Duxbury Fire Chief Kevin Nord said. “They’ve got a flooded street and they can’t get to their houses and this is going on for two to three weeks. Marshfield won’t pump it out because they said it’s not Marshfield, it’s Duxbury, but the water came through that hole in Marshfield.”
After witnessing a bar- rage of communication among town officials, area residents, and state legislators, Nord took action.
“I couldn’t watch this con- tinue, so as the Emergency Management director, I called MEMA,” said Nord referring to the Massachusetts Emer- gency Management Agency. He was able to obtain a high volume pump from the state Department of Transportation that his department used to pump out the water from this area. Pumping began March 11 and finished a day later.
Afterwards, Duxbury town officials met with Callahan and his neighbors about the flooding.
“We had a good meeting,” Callahan said. “We showed them old records and deeds of the area, and we all agreed we’re going to work together.”
Installing proper street signs and delineating the town line between Marshfield and Duxbury will help.
While the Duxbury Fire Department came through for these residents, Nord said Marshfield town officials were not happy with him.
“I got some friction from Marshfield DPW because I was putting the water back into their streets and into their catch basins,” Nord said.
These streets are privately owned and Nord feels that the Association must do some drainage work to help alleviate future flooding.
Both Nord and Buttkus said something must be done to close off the seawall opening in Marshfield during the winter. There is a similar opening in the seawall in Duxbury near Ocean Road North but Buttkus said that every year the DPW puts a plate on it and reinforces it with cement blocks to keep it from flooding.
“Eighty percent of the flooding could be prevented,” Buttkus said, if the opening is addressed. He added that while he needed to take a better look at the opening, he’s thinking
the fix could be done “simply with materials.”
“We need to put pressure on Marshfield to close off their seawall like Duxbury does,” Nord said.
Callahan said Marshfield does block off the seawall opening with a bulkhead but that this year “one storm just blew it off and it floated out to sea.”
“It would be huge if we can all get Marshfield to do something,” Callahan added.
Neighbors have already written letters to the director of the Marshfield emergency management about the flood- ing problem, Buttkus said. He plans to work with the Marshfield DPW director to address the flooding problem and Town Manager Richard MacDonald will be discussing the issue with Marshfield’s town manager Rocco Longo.
“They’re taxpayers and even though these roads are private, we have an obligation to assist them,” said MacDonald.