A Massachusetts Beach Town Paid $600,000 for Sand Dunes. Then a Storm Wiped Half of Them Out.

Protecting your beachfront property can be expensive—and sometimes that cost doesn’t really pay dividends.

Residents of Salisbury Beach, in northern Massachusetts, recently spent $600,000 on sand dunes that would shield their homes from storm damage. But almost half of the sand washed away after high tides and wind struck the area a mere few days later, The New York Times reported on Friday.

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“People are depressed, discouraged, angry,” Tom Saab, the president of Salisbury Beach Citizens for Change, which led the sand project, told the Times. “The dunes did their job. They sacrificed themselves to protect the properties—no properties were really damaged.”

Back in January, after a few major storms had hit the area, Salisbury Beach homeowners decided to band together to buy the 15,000 tons of sand. They raised the required funds by pooling their own money, and the project was completed on March 7. Along 1.5 miles of the beach, the dunes went up, protecting about 150 properties. (The beach is some four miles long in total, with the adjoining properties worth about $2 billion.)

“Everybody had beautiful dunes, all paid for out of their own pockets—not a penny from the State of Massachusetts at all,” Saab said. “We built this one and a half miles of beach ready to protect us.”

And protect them it did when a storm blew in on Sunday. But now the residents are down 50 percent of the sand and $300,000 of work. Salisbury Beach has received help from the state and the federal government before, and residents are now imploring officials to help them protect their property, given that the dunes would also cover the town’s and state’s infrastructure. A spokesperson for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation told The New York Times that it remains in contact with residents and will work with them to address erosion issues at the beach.

Many families have owned property along the beach since the 1950s to 1970s, so they feel a strong connection to the area. “Nobody wants to give up,” Saab said. “I will never give up on protecting Salisbury Beach.”

With more extreme weather predicted in the coming years, the Massachusetts town will likely need those sorts of defenders for the foreseeable future.

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