East Chop Drive damaged in storm, repairs run afoul of state law

A low lying section of East Chop Drive, along Vineyard Haven outer harbor, was reduced to one traffic lane after the blizzard. — Photo by Steve Myrick

The weekend blizzard washed out a low-lying section of East Chop Drive between Crystal Lake and Vineyard Haven outer harbor where it was exposed to the northeast wind. Oak Bluffs highway department workers have stabilized the roadway, closed during the storm, so that traffic could use one lane.

The town has a plan to use erosion control barriers to help shore up that section of the road, which was damaged in two storms this past fall. But permitting for a more permanent solution has proved difficult, Oak Bluffs highway superintendent Richard Combra Jr. said.

The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which regulates all development in a coastal zone, notified the town by letter that the proposed solution did not comply with state environmental laws.

“We’ve been working on a long-term fix, but now we’re in an emergency situation,” Mr. Combra said. “We’ve got a situation that’s not ideal, but cars can get by. Emergency vehicles can get to those homes if they had to.”

Oak Bluffs and DEP officials met by conference call Monday afternoon. State regulators agreed to visit the Island next Wednesday to assess the damage and review possible solutions.