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This paper is a case history of coastal development at Camp Ellis, Saco, Maine. It begins in 1867 with dredging and jetty construction at the mouth of the Saco River to facilitate commercial navigation. Beach accretion, resulting from tidal delta collapse, was followed by residential development before the ephemeral nature of the shoreline was recognized. A misunderstanding of the riverine source of beach sand and the net, northward direction of longshore transport confounded U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE) efforts to maintain navigation and the adjacent beach. Beach erosion at Camp Ellis claimed dozens of properties before the role of the north jetty at the mouth of the Saco River became apparent to state and university scientists. Erosion also led to sand migration to the north and to the closure of the Little River inlet and growth of Pine Point spit. This spit was later developed and a jetty was placed at its tip to preclude continued accretion into the Scarborough River inlet. Despite numerous studies, the USACOE failed to recognize the connection between beach erosion at Camp Ellis and beach accretion at Pine Point. Under political pressure, the USACOE recently conducted detailed modeling studies and has proposed construction of breakwaters seaward of Camp Ellis to solve the problem. A discussion of the pros and cons of this proposal is presented in light of the long history of development at Camp Ellis.

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