State approves funds for Oak Bluffs North Bluff seawall project

Oak Bluffs officials will receive $3.6 million in state funds to fix the crumbling seawall and walkway on North Bluff. The Oak Bluffs Steamship Authority terminal is in the background. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Town Administrator Robert Whritenour brought long-awaited good news to the Oak Bluffs selectmen at their regular meeting on Tuesday when he announced that two state agencies have given final approval for funding for the North Bluff Seawall and Boardwalk project.

The $5.6 million in total funding is comprised of a $3.6 million grant from the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) dam and seawall fund, and $2 million from the state Seaport Advisory Council.

Although the funding was approved last year, Mr. Whritenour said the outcome was still in doubt. “We had no guarantee that the new administration would extend them,” Mr. Whritenour said. “The state did say they didn’t think the money would be there with the new governor.”

The project will buttress the long-crumbling North Bluff seawall, which was given a knockout blow in Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The North Bluff seawall runs from Oak Bluffs Harbor entrance to the Steamship Authority terminal. The new wall will be made from steel sheet pile, according to conservation commission agent Elizabeth Durkee. “This is going to protect an important part of the town infrastructure,” she said. “If anything happened to that road, it will be a transportation nightmare.”

The state funds will also pay for construction of a pedestrian walkway that will allow passengers arriving at the Steamship Authority ferry terminal to easily reach the harbor, and passengers from ferries which dock in the harbor to stroll along the water to downtown Oak Bluffs. “The new boardwalk will bring significant economic benefit to downtown Oak Bluffs,” Mr. Whritenour said. “And it will be a beautiful stroll.”

Mr. Whritenour said that requests for proposals (RFP) for the job will be posted next month. Work should begin in September, and be completed by the end of June 2016.