Tisbury, Edgartown reach dredging agreement

Selectmen accept contract for Tashmoo dredging project.

Selectmen have agreed to use the Edgartown dredge to clear the Tashmoo Channel. - Gabrielle Mannino

Tisbury selectmen approved a contract Thursday night to work with Edgartown in dredging the badly shoaled Tashmoo channel.

The contract contains plans to use Edgartown’s dredge, acquired last year, with an operation window between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15.

Edgartown will charge Tisbury a maximum of $193,000 for the project, including $10,000 for every mobilization and demobilization of the dredge, as well as $4,000 for a barge tow to and from Tisbury.

According to Tisbury dredge committee chairman Nevin Sayre, Tisbury received a grant from the state of $129,000 specifically for a shovel-ready dredge project in Tashmoo.

A pre- and post-survey to determine specific amounts of sand, as well as exact dollar amounts per cubic yard of sand, will also be conducted — adding approximately $11,000 to the total cost.

The pre-dredge survey is scheduled for next week, and will be conducted by representatives from the Department of Public Works, the Vineyard Conservation Society, and Tisbury harbormaster John Crocker.

Sayre said the project should take approximately 21½ days, but Crocker said Edgartown dredge operators anticipate it taking less time, so long as everything goes according to plan. “The operator is very confident it will take less time,” Crocker said. “He has dredged Tashmoo in the past.”

Town administrator Jay Grande said the contract represents increased efforts by the town of Tisbury to create more ties with Edgartown and create an interconnected support network into the future.

“I really appreciate the effort and the opportunity the town of Edgartown has provided us,” Grande said.

The Tashmoo channel has not been fully dredged in 4 years, and shoaling caused by large onshore storm swell has made it difficult for mariners to navigate through the channel without bottoming out or running aground.

Originally, Tisbury was going to work with the town of Barnstable, as it has in the past. But according to Grande, “Barnstable dredging is fully booked,” and will not be able to provide assistance before the necessary start date.

“We value our relationship with Barnstable dredging, but we need to utilize other opportunities,” Grande said. “At the end of the day, we are trying to maintain relationships with more than one entity.”

Grande said he is considering whether it would be feasible to purchase a dredge for Tisbury in order to be more self-reliant, but for the time being, he said it makes sense to use the Edgartown dredge.

The contract has been negotiated using a pre-established daily cost of $7,500 per day, at 700 cubic yards per day. For Lynne Fraker, a longtime mariner and outspoken critic of some Tisbury dredging operations, charging a per-day rate as opposed to a per-cubic-yard rate is a “bad deal for Tisbury.”

“There is no way to tell how much they are dredging, is it 500 yards, or 700 yards?” Fraker said.

Fraker broke down the per-day pricing and told selectmen it equated to $10.71 per cubic yard — a price that she said is quite steep, but a lot better than paying per day.

She also said that comparing what a private dredge is dredging, versus what a municipal dredge is dredging, is like comparing “apples to oranges.”

“As a town and a municipality, we should be paying per cubic yard, not per day,” Fraker said.

“This has to be done right, it has to be done fiscally properly.”

Fraker had many other questions about the contract, such as where the sand is going, whether abutters have agreed to allow the sand on private beach property, and how the selectmen plan to address the upcoming fishing Derby while dredging is underway.

Selectman Melinda Loberg said abutters have signed an agreement allowing sand to be placed on any private beach property. Crocker said public access easements have been granted near disposal sites to allow sand disposal. The sand, according to Crocker, reinvigorates the beaches and is welcomed by abutters.

Crocker assured Fraker and the selectmen that dredging operations would not significantly impact the Derby. “The dredge pipe will be sunk underwater,” Crocker said. “People will still be able to fish.”

Selectmen Tristan Israel agreed with Fraker’s point, saying it would be good to minimize obtrusiveness of dredging on fishermen during the Derby period between Sept. 9 and  Oct. 13. “The Derby brings a lot of money for the town, so we should keep that in mind,” he said.

Fraker also said she is concerned that putting such a large amount of sand (about 15,000 cubic yards) level with the breakwater would cause much of the sand to be washed right back into the channel.

Israel and Grande also concurred with Fraker’s point that Barnstable dredging should be involved in future conversations.

While acknowledging Fraker’s concerns, Sayre said the contract is still advantageous and is a good opportunity for the town. “When you compare it with other offers, a maximum of $193,000 with a grant of $129,000 means the town would only pay $64,000,” Sayre said. “That is still quite favorable.”

To address Fraker’s question on who will be reviewing the survey and organizing the project, Grande said it is very organized, and the selectmen have thought a lot about the entirety of the process. “We do have people, they are all professionals, and have a good deal of experience in this,” Grande said.

Jeff Canha, longtime mariner, fisher, and fifth-generation Islander, said the importance of dredging Tashmoo is not about boating, it’s about water quality. “Our lakes and ponds are dying,” Canha said. “While we are all sitting here nickel-and-diming each other, time is wasting.”

Canha said this is the best thing to happen to Tashmoo in a long time: “This is the only deal in town right now, and I think it’s a good one.”

Ralph Packer, owner of R.M Packer, said proactive measures should be taken to reduce the amount of shoaling that takes place. He said using riprap (loose stone used to form a shoulder for breakwater) would provide a more legitimate, long-lasting solution to the problem.

Israel thanked members of the audience for their input, and said that there is no time to wait on this project. “We need to get this ball rolling,” he said.