A creative solution to the erosion of Wasque Point


To the Editor:

The Schifter house move presents a sobering contradiction. The goal is to save a property from the effects of climate change, but the means to this end is leaving a horrendous carbon footprint.

The fossil fuel alone required to implement this house move (including all the related shipping, trucking, personnel transportation, etc.) is significant. Add to this all the other carbon-related factors that will arise in the course of any multi-million dollar endeavor of this nature. The result is that this house move will just make the ocean rise faster.

Some suggest that we should just let nature take its course. This might be fine if we had been doing that all along but, instead, we have been active participants in the evolution of our environment. One might even say that we humans are part of nature. The important point is that we have made quite a mess, and we need to take responsibility for how we are going to continue to dwell on this planet.

A couple of months ago, I proposed an alternative to the house move: install a surplus ship on the tip of Wasque Point to serve as a temporary groin or jetty. By placing a ship at this location, sand would naturally accumulate and the beach would grow. The ship can be lowered and stabilized by filling it with water, and it can be raised for readjustment by emptying it of water. The ship would catch the easterly flow of sand that is coming from up-Island and is ending up in the growing sandbars between Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

Of course, the first step is to ensure that the existing easterly flow of sand makes it all the way to Wasque. At present, this sand is being caught by the outflow from the Norton Point opening, and it is being pushed into Muskeget Channel. If we close the Norton Point opening (perhaps by positioning the ship so that it disrupts the tidal energy near the opening, and then using bulldozers to push existing sand into place), all the sand traveling from up-Island will resume its normal flow toward Wasque. Once this flow resumes, we could position the ship at Wasque Point and begin building up the beach there.

Although there are many ways to implement such a plan, everyone I have spoken with has agreed with the concept. This option has a small carbon footprint, it offers a longer-term solution, it can be modified to meet changing conditions, and it can be removed if we ever change our minds.

I have personal experience, on a smaller scale, with this type of moveable structure. My family’s property has a small south-facing beach on Deep Bottom Cove. Back in the 1960s, when the east corner of the beach was eroding and the sand was feeding a sandbar that blocked the northern end of the cove, I installed a line of moveable four-ton concrete blocks on that corner. Over the years, as the beach developed, I reoriented these blocks to accommodate the changes. As a result, this temporary structure has caught the east-moving sand and built out the beach. (To see what this site looks like, before and after, please look for the photographs I have published on Page 6 of today’s paper.)

I believe this same technique could be applied at Wasque. Unfortunately, our regulatory process is not friendly to new ideas. The Wetlands Protection Act now prevents me from maintaining my concrete blocks. And, I assume, this act would also prohibit anything like a temporary groin or jetty off the point of Wasque. This inflexibility and rejection of new ideas leads us to forced stupidity. If we can’t apply some creativity to a problem, our best option might end up being quite ridiculous.

Mal Jones

West Tisbury