The Oak Bluffs selectmen’s meeting on Tuesday, November 18, was enlightening in many ways. Discussion shed light on the complexity of beach nourishment that our towns depend on to maintain their beaches for the enjoyment of residents and tourists in the face of accelerating erosion (MV Times, Nov. 19, “Oak Bluffs selectmen recalibrate stance on sand mining”). Listening to the knowledgeable discussion it became very evident that sand mining must take into consideration the habitat destruction both in local ponds and out at sea that affects the entire food chain and will impinge on the fishing industry. An Island-wide approach, taking into account the needs of each town’s residents and economy, becomes obviously necessary as solutions are sought.
The presentation of the Coastal Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Plan by Mr. Martecchini of the Kleinfelder group in Boston was another eye-opener as we consider the environmental, economic, and social impacts of climate change we are confronting here on the Island. The firm plans to extract data from existing state-of-the-art computer modeling using mapping tools to develop sea level rise, storm surge and flooding and inundation projections specifically for the Oak Bluffs shoreline. The Kleinfelder study will identify vulnerable coastal landforms and town infrastructure and will help to develop various adaptation strategies with an eye to how best to preserve open space, recreation resources, coastal infrastructure, and protect the economy, health, and safety of the people of Oak Bluffs.
I commend Oak Bluffs for facing the very real threats to the town infrastructure and residents head-on. Hopefully the assessment will help the town make informed and rational decisions into the future with respect to the many complicated issues that will be exacerbated by climate change, including sand mining, and will serve as a good example to the rest of the Island. We need to stay together in planning for the future adaptations that will be required, while not forgetting the root cause of these problems, which is our reliance on burning fossil fuels with their carbon emissions.
Ms. Blake is an atmospheric chemist and a member of the steering committee for 350 MVI. She lives in West Tisbury.