Coastal Landform System Sustainability Project : an analysis of activities permitted on coastal landforms on Cape Cod, Massachusetts in 1999
O'Connell, James F.
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LocationCape Cod, MA
In their natural state, the coastal landform systems of Cape Cod are self-sustaining. However, recognition that humans have become intrinsic agents in the evolution of coastal landscapes is significant. There is a great need to understand how individual actions on a small scale (lot-by-lot) basis affect the sustainability of coastal landform systems, such as coastal dunes, beaches, coastal banks, barrier beaches, saltmarshes, and coastal floodplains. However, there are few investigations relative to this scale. This study illustrates the vast extent of human alterations to coastal landforms on Cape Cod. As a result of analyzing 318 Orders of Conditions issued for activities permitted on and adjacent to coastal landforms in all 15 Cape Cod towns in 1999, it documents and quantifies the gains and losses to coastal landform system sustainability. The study documents the types of activities presently taking place on and adjacent to our coastal landforms and their potential affects, and potential mitigation being required by local commissions to minimize these affects. It also documents the trade-offs and balances oftentimes necessary in the application of performance standard based regulations governing activities proposed on coastal landforms. Because our quantitative understanding of coastal landform function is still evolving, particularly on a small-scale lot-by-lot basis, many decisions are oftentimes made using best professional judgement (if available) without predictive capability to know what the impact will be to the applicant's or neighboring property and resources. It is hoped that the results of this study will assist local, state, and federal coastal resource managers and regulators, as well as the public, in gaining insight into the interactions of human activities and natural coastal landform system function leading towards improved coastal resource management. The project participants stated that during the course of this study the sharing of information among them was invaluable. It is hoped that the sharing of information in this study with a broader audience will also be utilized for improved coastal landform system management.