Army Corps will not penalize Edgartown for dredge project

Edgartown's town-owned dredge working in Sengekontacket Pond — File photo by Steve Myrick

The Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency that regulates dredging projects, will not fine or otherwise sanction the town of Edgartown for an unpermitted dredging project in January.

“At this time, we believe the best course of action is for the town to take strong action to ensure compliance with all applicable regulations for any future work,” Karen Adams wrote in a letter to the town. Ms. Adams is the chief of permits and enforcement for the Army Corps of Engineers. “The town needs to demonstrate to us that it is taking the steps necessary to prevent future violations.”

At their Monday meeting, selectmen responded to Ms. Adams by approving a series of protocols for all future projects with the town owned dredge. The new rules include requiring authorization by the board of selectmen, dredge committee, conservation commission, harbormaster, and shellfish constable before any project can begin. They also require dredge operators to have copies of all permits on the dredging vessel during work.

“We are basically responsible,” selectmen Margaret Serpa said after voting to approve the new protocols. “We will be taking action on these recommendations, and follow through.”

In January, selectmen learned of a dredging project authorized by former dredge advisory committee chairman Norman Rankow, for his clients, Steven and Deborah Barnes. The project was done without any permits, and without the knowledge of the other members of the committee, or any other town board. Mr. Rankow resigned his position, and selectmen referred him to the State Ethics Commission.

Also Tuesday, selectmen agreed to a recommendation by town counsel Ron Rappaport to consider changing the representation on the dredge advisory committee.

“In view of what has gone on in the Barnes job, and sloppiness in regards to other projects, I think you should think about reformulating that committee, and take a look at its membership,” Mr. Rappaport said.

“I believe we’ve made a lot of progress,” selectmen Art Smadbeck said. “I believe we’ll have this well in hand and off the table.”

Town officials plan to meet with Army Corps regulators on April 18.