2017-09-28 / Front Page

Selling a home in Camp Ellis poses issues unlike others

By Grant McPherson
Staff Writer


Wanda McGee’s home on 10 Surf St. was moved back under Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines due to the eroding beach at Camp Ellis. Sand from the 2018 dredge by the Army Corps of Engineers will be placed at Camp Ellis. By the Corps’ own estimates, the area will need sand replenishment every 12 years. (Grant McPherson photo) Wanda McGee’s home on 10 Surf St. was moved back under Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines due to the eroding beach at Camp Ellis. Sand from the 2018 dredge by the Army Corps of Engineers will be placed at Camp Ellis. By the Corps’ own estimates, the area will need sand replenishment every 12 years. (Grant McPherson photo) SACO – A beachfront property in Camp Ellis is on the market, but the owner is concerned as the beach slowly disappears. Wanda McGee’s summer home at 10 Surf St. is priced at $780,000. The New Hampshire native decided to sell it so she can live closer to her daughter, who just moved to Connecticut. McGee bought the property in fall 2012 for $650,000. It is assessed at $506,400.

The house had been moved back 50 feet from its original location seven years ago, prior to McGee’s purchase. A wooden wall in front of her house was damaged by storm waves in 2013 and had to be replaced for $500. In the five years she’s spent summers living in Camp Ellis, McGee said erosion has continued to get worse. There is very little beach left in front of her home and the water touches the rocks on the shore in front of her property.

“(The rocks) are starting to be in big trouble of washing into the ocean,” she said.

Erosion has been a problem in Camp Ellis for decades. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a jetty in the late 1880s to help ships travel up the Saco River toward the mills. However, the jetty disrupted the natural sand cycle in the bay and scientists are not sure the damage is reversible. The Corps has admitted fault in the cause of the erosion, but have since done little to help. Sand from a November 2018 dredge will be placed at Camp Ellis north of the jetty.

“There was a two-lane paved highway in front of our house about 40 years ago, now it’s reduced to a walking path,” McGee said.

McGee’s neighbor Steve Coravos, who’s owned a home at 6 Surf St. for the past 67 years, has no land available behind his house where he could set it back. Coravos wrote a letter to Gov. Paul LePage, Sen. Susan Collins and Sen. Senator Angus King in summer 2015 highlighting the dire nature of the erosion at Camp Ellis. He wants the governor to declare a state of environmental emergency to spur action in the area.

“The construction of the jetty was a federal government undertaking, shouldn’t the correction of that mistake also fall on the federal government,” he wrote. “Not only has the mistake not been corrected, but the federal government has not compensated the local government which lost millions and millions in forgone real estate tax revenue.”

Coravos and other beachside residents started Save Our Shores in 1985 to help raise awareness of the erosion problem and hold the government accountable. In 30 years he hasn’t seen even close to the response he feels is appropriate. Coravos’ frustration is only matched by his confusion as to why a government wouldn’t want to solve a problem that would help generate tax revenue.

“I am a taxpayer, a veteran and a human being and I am represented by no one from the city, state or federal government,” he wrote. “Taxation without representation, sound familiar … shame on you all.”

Bob Casey, a Camp Ellis resident and owner of Casey Construction, has been to several meetings with city officials about the erosion problem but felt like the meetings never went anywhere.

“There are more questions than answers,” he said. “Everybody seemed to dance around the issue.”

Casey did the work of setting back the property at 10 Surf St. about seven years ago, before McGee owned the property. He said he moved the property back as far as he could over the course of about a month. He’s done two other similar projects in Camp Ellis, but most people are in the same boat as Coravos, with no more land to retreat onto. Casey has also elevated Camp Ellis residents’ foundations in accordance with Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines.

McGee receives biannual reports from FEMA regarding the flood risk for her property.

“We are lucky we’re in low to moderate flood risk,” she said. “At this point they’re not viewing our house as a high risk.”

Marc Cardullo, the realtor for 10 Surf St., said the property is unique in that it already meets setback requirements as laid forth by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In that sense the property is a step ahead of many others in the area.

“Eventually everyone has to do it, pay now or pay later,” he said.

Return to top