Town administrator Robert Whritenour brought good news to the selectmen at their regular meeting on Tuesday night, informing the board that the town has been awarded a sizeable grant from the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). The funds will pay for updated design work and engineering studies to repair the revetment below East Chop Bluff.
“The state has proven to be a very strong partner,” Mr. Whritenour said. “The DCR, under the rivers and harbors program, has awarded the town a grant for $225,000. It was a highly competitive grant and Liz Durkee [conservation commission agent] and Dave Grunden [shellfish constable] deserve a lot of credit for this. The reason it’s so important is that we need to put together a firm design that will be shovel ready in the event that funding comes along.”
Mr. Whritenour said the East Bluff restoration may have to be done in stages as funding becomes available. In the meantime, the grant can go to cost estimates and new engineering plans which will help obtain funding in the future.
Although a great deal of time and energy has been spent to qualify for funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Mr. Whritenour said the town would be best served if FEMA was out of the equation. “FEMA is a world unto itself,” he said. “They purposefully have tried to get out of the project. They’ll do or say anything. What we’re focused on now is getting something done.”
The crumbling corniche that wraps around the East Chop bluffs and overlooks Nantucket Sound has a long history of erosion-related closures. It was closed for two years after hurricane Bob in 1991. The seaward lane was closed in November 2012 as a result of erosion from Superstorm Sandy. Three months later, winter storm Nemo caused damage that closed the road entirely for two weeks. One lane remained closed until late June of 2013, when it was reopened to reduce traffic on the alternate routes that cut through residential areas of East Chop.
In other business, selectmen voted 4-0, with Michael Santoro abstaining, to give permission to all Oak Bluffs restaurants and bars to serve alcohol until 1:30 am and to close at 2 am, on New Year’s day, January 1, 2015.