For Cuttyhunkers, the big issue is the cost of energy
The town of Gosnold, the seventh Dukes County town, uses generators powered by diesel fuel to provide energy for the entire island. But the rising cost of fuel has become a problem. The cost of electric power and the use of alternative energy sources were at the top of the agenda July 12, when the Dukes County commissioners made their annual trip to Cuttyhunk.
Gosnold includes all of the Elizabeth Islands, which are privately owned, except for Cuttyhunk, the seat of Gosnold government. Vineyard officials have little to do for or with the Cuttyhunkers throughout the year. That island's residents need and ask for little. But annually, the commissioners visit to see what they might do to help.
This year they met with Gail Blout, chairman of the Gosnold selectmen, to discuss issues of common concern.
Three of the seven county commissioners made the leisurely trip on the catamaran Arabella from Menemsha Creek across Vineyard Sound. They were Robert Sawyer, and Paul Strauss, and chairman John Alley.
The brief business meeting took place in the Cuttyhunk town hall and began with a discussion of high rates charged to residents for electricity, 54 cents per kilowatt hour in the summer and 42 cents per kilowatt hour in the winter -more than double the highest rates charged on the Vineyard.
The first of several alternatives examined at the meeting was providing electricity for the town through wind power.
Quincy developer Jay Cashman has proposed a plan to build three clusters of turbines, one of which would be off the coast of Naushon Island, which is a part of Gosnold.
However, the effects of a wind turbine in the Vineyard Sound on navigation and fishing, as well as energy costs are as of yet still unclear.
Another alternative is a proposal by Massachusetts Tidal Energy Company, which has already filed plans to build an underwater tidal energy farm in the Vineyard Sound. According to company representatives the installation could supply power to thousands of houses in New England.
Another problem facing Cuttyhunk is the deterioration of the Canapitsit barrier beach.
"There's an erosion situation going on," explained Winn Davis, the county manager. "In a bad storm the winds and waves could push the barrier down into the channel."
This would be a serious problem for Gosnold, whose residents are connected to the mainland exclusively through this channel into Cuttyhunk Harbor.
The major obstacle to the selectmen's plan to extend the stone jetty upward and enhance it so that it can weather any storm is opposition from the Coastal Zone Management who worry about the environment.
One member of the trip, Rory Sheehan, who works in Congressman William Delahunt's office, agreed to help organize a meeting between all involved parties to broker a deal.
Selectman Blout also expressed concern for the future of young people on Gosnold so she is working to provide incentives for young couples.
Five infants have been born to Gosnold residents in the past three years and Ms. Blout hopes to find some affordable housing for young people who want to stay on Cuttyhunk.
Cuttyhunk is the southernmost island in the Elizabeth chain that separates Vineyard Sound and Buzzards Bay. It is home to 120 registered voters and approximately 20 year-round residents.