Storm drains fail in ceaseless rain

Sand and sediment blamed for flooded streets.

A car drives through a puddle on Beach Road in Vineyard Haven caused by clogged drains, which are exacerbated by the road being at sea level grade. — Stacey Rupolo

The rain that soaked Martha’s Vineyard over the past week took a toll on its storm drains, causing them to back up and flood sections of roadway in several places across the Island. Motorists who crept through these flood spots may have wondered when solutions were coming.

A segment of County Road in Oak Bluffs that’s near to the highway department building filled over a foot deep with rainwater, prompting the placement of warning signs that drivers have seen there often after heavy rain.

“It’s a problem we’ve had for quite awhile,” Oak Bluffs highway superintendent Richard Combra Jr. said. Mr. Combra said mud and silt washes down from several different private properties adjacent to the road, including from an extensive automotive junkyard. He said the cooperation of the owners of these properties will be necessary to remedy the situation.

The work necessary to correct the problem amounts to “a big, expensive project,” he said, noting his department is determined to get it fixed. The town has hired the Sourati Engineering Group to devise a solution, he said.

The highway department is making headway on drainage problems in other parts of Oak Bluffs, Mr. Combra said. At the intersection of Uncas and Circuit avenues, they recently fixed two problematic storm drains near the Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank. The engineering and design work is complete for a drainage solution at Dukes County Avenue where it intersects Green Leaf and Siloam avenues — a site of enormous puddles, he said. The drainage system will run from School Street to the harbor, Mr. Combra said. A rain garden on a corner of Sunset Lake is also part of the plan. The Sourati Engineering Group executed the design for this area.

Tisbury public works director Ray Tattersall told The Times he plans to commit a clamshell truck to clean out storm drains along Water Street, and then follow up with a vacuum truck to suck out anything left over. Several drains in that vicinity have clogged up since they were mucked out in the autumn and winter, he said.

Robert Blanchard, the general foreman for Tisbury’s public works department, said that during heavy rain, the Five Corners area suffers from being only a hair above sea level. He also said a combination of sediment, from the properties up the slope behind Main Street, and Winter Road sand regularly plagues the drains in that area.

The town has commissioned Environmental Partners Group to map out the drainage for all of Tisbury, Mr. Tattersall said. In addition, the group will advise the town on what steps should be taken to improve drainage and hedge against flooding in places like Five Corners. He expects to be briefed on the mapping project next week.

West Tisbury superintendent of streets Richard T. Olsen told The Times that West Tisbury’s drains were in good order.

“We had ours cleaned last fall,” he said.

He added the town doesn’t see much flooding, but recalled one instance, many years back, when the stream that runs under Scotsman Bridge Lane spilled over the road. The Times pointed out that drains were backed up near town hall at the intersection of Music Street and State Road, and at the at the end of Old County Road where it meets Edgartown–West Tisbury Road. Mr. Olsen wasn’t surprised about the drain near town hall. He said the state owns partway into town streets abutting State Road, so the drain on Music Street is maintained by the commonwealth. As to the drain on Old County Road, he said, he’d look into it immediately.