Planning for climate change


To the Editor:

We are writing as concerned citizens and as members of 350 Martha’s Vineyard Island. We are affiliated with, an organization founded by Bill McKibben to rally responses to climate change. The role of 350MVI and our website is to help make connections between individuals and organizations that are concerned with the effects of climate change, to educate people about its complex challenges, and to identify specific actions that people can take.

We thank the Martha’s Vineyard Commission for its good work, which has resulted in excellent design changes in anticipation of high water, and should lead to more, as detailed in “MVC Staff Comments on Stop & Shop’s Offers of January 16, 2014.” We urge you to hold strong. For example, the proposal should definitely use the new floodplain maps, not the old. We appreciate how you have identified ambiguities and potential loopholes among revisions to the proposal.

We acknowledge that we are late getting an oar in the water here, though some of our members have been actively engaged in the public discussion of this proposal for a year or more. We are calling upon you, especially in your function as a planning body. Climate change is a certainty, bringing a higher sea level and storms of greater frequency and strength, though no one can predict with certainty the extent and timing of these changes. In the Island Plan, we see nothing about preparation for and mitigation of climate change, beyond tangential mentions in connection with wetlands protection and waterfront/beach access.

We urge you to undertake a long-term plan for Vineyard Haven Harbor. This region is uniquely critical to the continuance of life and well-being on our Island. The commission designated the harbor a district of critical planning concern (DCPC) in 1999 and 2000. It may be necessary to revisit the definition. A number of boundaries are specified relative to mean high water, which was presumed at the time to be relatively stable. The hospital was quite reasonably not included as part of the harbor DCPC, but given its critical role in the life of the Island, its risk from storm surge, and the frequent passage of ambulances on the ferry, it should be included in the harbor plan.

Doug Cabral, Editor of The Martha’s Vineyard Times, has recently re-evoked a proposal to move slips for vehicle-carrying ferries down harbor. This would greatly alleviate traffic at Five Corners, and of course it would be closer to the hospital. Naturally, the Steamship Authority have been and will be reluctant to consider such a costly change. However, reconstruction of the slips and the vehicle approaches will become necessary in any case, as sea level rises. When Water Street becomes water rather than street, will traffic from the ferry slips move along a raised wharf, as in Oak Bluffs? Would it be best to move the heaviest traffic to a different location prepared in advance?

These are weighty matters that we feel require the focused attention of commission staff as soon as possible.

We welcome MVC suggestions as to how we may help in its work, bearing in mind that our core function is as a connector, helping people and organizations to recognize that they have common cause and to work together in addressing climate change, though they may come at it from very different directions. Helping the Steamship Authority to recognize our common interest in a comprehensive plan will be one of our concerns.

Again, we thank the MVC for its excellent work on the proposal from Stop & Shop/Ahold NV. We wholeheartedly support the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and its critical role.

Mas Kimball

Oak Bluffs

And, Nicola Blake, Jeri Dantzig, Chris Fried, Bill Gamson, Zee Gamson, Paddy Moore, Bruce Nevin, Katrina Nevin, Sarah Nevin, Nora Nevin, Tony Nevin, Sue Kimball, Chris Riger, Ann Rosenkranz, for 350 Martha’s Vineyard Island