To the Editor:
The Vineyard community has an opportunity to support easements for public beach access on private beaches by commenting, by October 7, 2010, on the request by the town of Edgartown to amend the DEP Chapter 91, 10 Year Comprehensive Dredge Permit, held jointly with Oak Bluffs, to allow beach nourishment below Mean High Water at private beaches along Cow Bay.
According to state regulations, with publicly funded dredge projects where beach nourishment is placed below mean low water on private beaches, easements are required to allow public access along these beaches. These easements would allow strolling only; the public would not be permitted any other activity besides strolling. Currently, under the Colonial Ordinances, the public has access for the purpose of fishing, fowling, and navigation (not strolling) below mean high water, but even this right is curtailed by private homeowners by the use of private guards. To be fair to the private homeowners, it would be possible for them to work with DEP to establish areas and time restrictions for strolling.
Privately funded dredge projects do not require easements, and that is where the issue becomes grey. The beach nourishment for Cow Bay will be coming from the Sengekontacket channel dredge project. Oak Bluffs has allotted $500,000 for the project. The project will cost more, so Oak Bluffs has been forced to sell some of the sand to Cow Bay, to cover the extra costs. Edgartown dredge will be doing the dredging at a cost of $11 per cubic yard, the same cost that Cow Bay paid last season. Edgartown stands to be paid $712,000, which includes $25,000, half of an excessive mobilization and demobilization cost.
Edgartown will benefit by receiving some of this sand to place on Bend-in-the-Road and a small amount on the adjoining State Beach to support the Bend, paid for by Cow Bay. Despite the fact that dredging the channel will have positive effects for both towns, Edgartown has been unwilling to bear any of the costs. No sand will be placed on the Oak Bluffs portion of State Beach to refill the eroding groins, which was originally an important part of this project. Oak Bluffs hopes to have enough money left to put the permitted amount of sand above the high tide line at Pay and Inkwell beaches.
I believe that this qualifies as a publicly funded project, and strolling easements should be required along private beaches as part of the Chapter 91 permit amendment.
More information about public easements may be found on the Coastal Zone Management (CZM) and attorney general websites.
Comments supporting this as a publicly funded project should be sent to Mitch Ziencina, DEP Waterways, 20 Riverside Drive, Lakeville, MA 02347, by October 7.