Westerly – The Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council, issuer of maintenance construction permits to engineers for country-pop artist Taylor Swift says work at the seven-time Grammy Award winner’s waterfront home in Watch Hill is in compliance with permits granted.
“The boulders on the seaward side of structure the are part of the revetment,” said Laura Dwyer, spokesperson for CRMC. “The structure actually used to extend much further out into the water.”
Controversy arose last week when casual observers on East Beach in Westerly came upon several pieces of heavy machinery and construction crews at work on the stone revetment and cliff below Swift’s seaside mansion.
The placement of large armor rip rap revetment (boulders and stones) in front of an existing concrete wall raised the question of whether the work being accomplished was legally permitted and stone removal in coastal waters allowable.
A column printed in the Day by David Collins and distributed on social media channels, including Rhode Island Surfrider Foundation’s Facebook page, questioned the lack of town permitting for the project. It also questioned the newly placed layer of rip rap armoring along the seawall extending out into the waters of the Atlantic.
“Not only is the Swift contractor plucking and moving around big ocean boulders, but they have added a whole new line of rock sea wall on what had previously been a public beach, at a location that appears to be below mean high tide,” said Collins.
Just the facts
According to Dwyer, the shoreline in question is not a naturally rocky shoreline. The stones in the water and surrounding the area in question were stones from the former rip rap revetment, redistributed by coastal storms and dependent on natural circumstance, sometimes covered in sand.
“Our job is to ensure the least impact in the coastal area,” said Dwyer. “The stones in the water are smaller stones from the revetment and the cliff that don’t belong there. We approved the smaller stones being removed and reused. We also approved bringing in larger stones that were more effective during storms.”
The scope of the 24-page application and approved CRMC assent included repair of the existing rip rap revetment, replacement of undersized armor stone with new larger stone, resetting the existing revetment stones over a prepared sub base and “repair of the revetment to the face of the existing concrete wall.”
The application was also reviewed by the Rhode Island Historical Society (RIHS) as the property lies within the Watch Hill Historic District.
RIHS, on October 31, concluded that the project would have no adverse effect on the Watch Hill Historic District, “nor will it affect any other significant cultural resources.”
As for the lack of town permitting, Dwyer said that the project lies within CRMC’s jurisdiction as far as coastal feature construction.
“To our knowledge, this project is still in compliance with the maintenance assent. The portion they are working on now is very cut and dry – they are adding a filter fabric and then re-stacking the stones that were on the side of the structure. The supposed “new” construction is a resetting of what was there and actually, the historic structure there was farther seaward, so we’ve required they moved it back. At certain times of the year, it’s completely covered with sand, but at this point and given the storms we’ve had, it’s exposed now.”
Swift’s media relations team was not available at time of posting.