Amid Climate Change Threats, Cape Planners Ask: Is It Time To Retreat From The Coast?

A home on Salt Marsh Road in Sandwich is damaged beyond repair after a February storm. (Eve Zuckoff/CAI)

Catastrophic damage from climate change threatens coastal homes all over the Cape, and Islands, prompting regional planners to eye managed coastal retreat options

Whenever a beachfront home goes on the market in Sandwich, it’s going to draw dozens of prospective buyers.

“So this is all private beach, which people just love. They want their privacy. They want their quietness and their calmness,” said Rich Lonstein, a realtor with Berkshire Hathaway, Robert Paul Properties. He specializes in beachfront homes. And this one on Salt Marsh Road, with four bedrooms, three baths, selling for the relative-bargain of $900,000, has attracted a lot of attention.

“A lot of houses in Sandwich, and as a matter of fact, on the Cape, they don’t have a dock and a beach. They’re going to have one or the other, but not both,” he said. “So that’s what’s really unique about this property.”

Another thing that’s unique about this property is that it was condemned, after high tides, erosion and relentless coastal flooding in a February storm tore it apart.

On a clear morning just a week after the storm, this house, like several on the road, was pitched forward over the dune, surrounded by “caution” signs.

“We can’t go inside. And we’ve got to be real careful because, as you can see, the wires are down as well.”

Catastrophic damage from climate change threatens coastal homes all over the Cape, and Islands. And over the next 30 years, new research from a nonprofit research organization shows that the financial losses from flood damage alone could rise to $316 million per year for Massachusetts homeowners, a 36 percent increase from today. Taken together, these coastal threats have forced regional planners to begin quietly asking a once-unthinkable question: has the time come to retreat from the shoreline?

Read the rest of the story at CAI’s website.