Coast Guard poised to start new Menemsha boathouse


Coast Guard First District announced Tuesday that construction of a new Station Menemsha boathouse will begin in early September. The Coast Guard expects to complete the project by summer 2014.

The new boathouse will replace the Coast Guard facility that was destroyed in the devastating Menemsha fire on July 12, 2010. The blaze also destroyed adjacent docks and boats, and very nearly spread to the surrounding village.

An investigation by federal, state, and local authorities right after the fire was extinguished said the fire may have been the result of a discarded cigarette on the pier, faulty electrical wiring to the boathouse, or faulty electrical wiring to the town’s pier. The investigation found insufficient evidence to determine a more precise ignition source.

“The approved scope of work includes construction of a 5,000 square-foot single-bay boathouse,” according to a Coast Guard press release. “The facility will include boat maintenance and crew support spaces as well as a new boat ramp. Coast Guard appropriations included $10 million to plan, design and rebuild the boathouse.”

The Coast Guard said design-build contractor Mortenson Construction expects to start the week after Labor Day and initial activity will include the installation of a temporary structure to support crane activities.

“The structure concept improves on the original plan of using only a barge for crane operations,” the Coast Guard said. “Following discussions with the town of Chilmark, the Coast Guard adjusted its plan to reduce impact on adjacent mooring facilities and avoid barge contact with the marine bottom.

“Much of the large material deliveries for construction during the winter will be transported by barge. Smaller interior-work material deliveries and materials procured from local suppliers will come by road.”

Menemsha Station Chief Jason Olsen told The Times that the start of construction will be a boost to the men and women of the station who have had to make do without a shoreside facility. Chief Olsen said the new boathouse will improve the station’s capabilities and efficiency.

Currently, gear must be transported down the hill to the station’s complement of two 47-foot motor lifeboats and one 25-foot rigid hull inflatable fast response boat. Small boats must also be hauled and launched at the Aquinnah boat ramp.

The new boathouse will feature a boat ramp and ample inside storage. Chief Olsen said that having a modern workspace will lift everyone’s spirits.

“I’m excited about it,” Mr. Olsen said. He added he was pleased that the start of construction after Labor Day weekend would address some of the town’s concerns about work during the busy summer months.

In discussions last year, Coast Guard plans to replace the original boathouse, built in 1939, with a new, slightly larger structure rankled Chilmark selectmen who said the building is too large and out of character with Menemsha.

Following slight modifications to the design, Coast Guard officials told unhappy Chilmark selectmen that the Coast Guard would move forward with construction of a new Station Menemsha boathouse, designed to meet its mission requirements for the next 50 years.

The latest plans call for a boathouse with two floors, 29 feet, 10 inches at its highest point and 69 feet long.

By comparison, the old boathouse was 28 feet high and 63 feet long. In response to the concerns of town officials over height, length, and design elements that included the style of windows and dormers, the Coast Guard modified the design.

“While some residents still oppose the construction of this replacement building, the entire community appreciates that the start of construction was delayed into September,” said Tim Carroll, Chilmark executive secretary, in an email to The Times.