Long delayed Sengekontacket dredge permit in hand

Oak Bluffs selectman Duncan Ross thrust a sheaf of papers high above his head and declared, “Feast your eyes on this document.” It was the permit to dredge Sengekontacket Pond, and Mr. Ross, chairman of the selectmen, brandished it before his pleased colleagues Tuesday evening.

The permit was a long time in coming. The latest snag occurred last fall when the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) expressed concern that the planned dredging might disturb archaeological material.

But the Army Corps of Engineers permit that Mr. Ross celebrated will allow the town to dredge a channel between Big Bridge and Little Bridge, to improve water quality by increasing the tidal flow.

The permit expires December 31, 2015, and includes several conditions, including a requirement that the town hire a licensed firm to conduct an underwater archaeological survey before and after the dredging project. The survey will cost the town $24,900.

Mr. Ross told The Times that the tribe told the Army Corps that a survey would satisfy its concerns.

The town still does not have a permit to use the dredge spoils to replenish sand on town beaches below the high tide line, and it is not likely to get that permit this fall. Unless the dredging is delayed, the dredged sand would have to be stored, or sold.

Also, most people familiar with the project think the $500,000 voters authorized the town to borrow to do the work will not be enough.

Though the town could decide to put off the dredging, town administrator Michael Dutton said the project will go out to bid in the next few weeks, and the town will proceed as if the project will begin in September.