Spoils from Tisbury dredging have a price
To the Editor:
The Tisbury selectmen voted for a minimal increase in mooring rates to give the harbor committee an opportunity to review harbor expenses and alternate sources of income. The harbor benefits the entire town, and the burden of supporting the harbor should not be placed solely on mooring permit holders.
The selectmen were motivated to increase the cost of mooring permits, initially proposing a 30 percent increase, due to the high cost of dredging. The back channel project, first dredged in 1997, will dredge the area in Vineyard Haven Harbor between the breakwater and the beach. This is a much-needed project for water quality and navigation. The water quality part of this project benefits the entire town by eliminating the unpleasant smell of wrack algae.
The back channel could have and should have been dredged several years ago. The problem is not with the dredging, but rather where the material is going. From the start of renewing this project, 2006, when private homeowners asked the town to pump the material to the West Chop, Grove Avenue area, all involved knew that getting the material up to this area would require a booster pump. This doubles the cost of the project and for a relatively small amount of material.
In 2008, The Tisbury selectmen voted that a condition for this project would be that the property owners receiving sand would pay for their share of costs to pump sand to their property, over and above the least expensive option. The town can pay a share for the small Grove Avenue public access. Homeowners and their representative were in the audience for this vote. Then the project was delayed for several years, due to problems with the potential loss of valuable eelgrass in front of one property. During this time, the representative for the homeowners was put in charge of the committee, consultant costs escalated far above the original consultant contract, and the vote by the selectmen to share the cost of this project was ignored.
The homeowners need to pay their share. Cost of the dredging is estimated to be $289,000 to $300,000. I strongly object to having my mooring rates raised to pay double for a project when there are less expensive options available. This project will need maintenance every five years. Since speaking out about this project, I have been told that Community Preservation Act and Steamship Authority embarkation funds will eventually pay back the loan the town is taking out for this project. Isn't that public money? These funds should be used to benefit the public and all taxpayers. They should not be used to fund the private portion of this costly project.
The selectmen should also require strolling easements. The argument that even though public money is being used to put sand on private beaches, and now there is no beach access on one property, but placement of sand will at least allow fishing and fowling access (Colonial Ordinances) on that one property, that's enough and easements are not needed — this is confusing and makes no sense. You can't have it both ways. Pay for your sand and you can do what you want, fishing and fowling rights remain. Any project using any public funds to place sand on private beaches equals strolling rights.