The best plan for TTOR

To the Editor:

This is a copy of a letter to The Trustees of Reservations and the Department of Marine Fisheries, Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

In my view, the ongoing oceanic and coastal processes witnessed at the Trustees’ property at Wasque Reservation and Leland Beach should not become part of the Schifters’ relocation plan.

TTOR’s environmental management strategy to let nature run its course is the best plan in view of the 21+ mm rise in sea level since 2006. (NOAA-Sea Level Rise/Nantucket Station Data) The lowering of the coastal bluff for a view and deforesting the building site has greatly accelerated this lot’s erosion rate. This erosion prompted the emergency installation of the coir envelopes permitting the Schifter’s time to move their residence to another location. More activity will continue this process.

No public plan shows what that move will involve. We understand that International Chimney and Expert House Movers of Maryland are the contractors for this activity. The guest house now sits less than 65 feet from the 30-foot sand cliff (washed by high tides) in an unprotected condition; I don’ t feel any plan should involve the TTOR at this time. I believe it is too late. This guest house site has lost 20 feet horizontally in the past month. The adjacent forested TTOR land lost “only” 9 feet. Ironically, I have had conversations with Rick and Jennie Schifter as far back as April of 2011 about what was happening near their beautiful estate. They were hoping for “closure” sooner rather than later. It took six years for the opening to reach the proximity of Chappaquiddick Island and with the stated 4,400+ left to reach Wasque Point, my view is at least another six will be needed.

While most folks seem to point to the Katama breach as the cause of this erosion, after three years of photographing the process, I’ll use words from Woods Hole scientists, “Keep on speculating.” Jerry and Sue Wacks still have a homesite at the Breach, and it appears Norton Point has moved past Trustee’ s Lane, taking its island modification program to the east of their property. The approximately 500-foot-wide channel will get deeper and they will lose more land but for now the process is proceeding to the east, leading Norton Point’s advances.

Sites I have been monitoring since 2011 are once again showing erosion rates of four to eight feet per month, and one beach has retreated 100 feet after being static for most of 2012. What we don’t know will be the truth. TTOR should stay the course and nature’s steward as it has for all these years. Hopefully, the coir envelopes will be gone by September 2013 so Derby fishermen can enjoy their fishing rights, as protected by Massachusetts colonial ordinance, and nature and the ocean can restore Wasque and Leland Beach to their latest condition.

Captain Bob Gilkes

Edgartown