Chilmark addresses West Dock sinkholes 

Kent Healy, an engineer, offers Chilmark selectmen some ideas on what to do with West Dock. - Rich Saltzberg

Due to the chronic occurrence of sinkholes on the West Dock in Menemsha, Chilmark selectmen asked West Tisbury selectman Kent Healy, a civil engineer, to suggest some solutions at their July 2 meeting. Of the four ideas Healy put forth, the board decided pounding rebar into the sand under the dock was the most expedient and economical of the lot, and opted to advance the idea. 

Town administrator Tim Carroll later told The Times the West Dock is essentially a wooden box over a sand dune. The dune and the edge of the channel were purchased by the town in the late 1960s from a North Road resident. The town built the dock, and has had to make successive repairs and improvements to it over the years, he said. As the wood under the dock becomes more porous, it can leak sand into the channel and make sinkholes, Carroll said. 

“The old wood sheeting is still rotting,” Healy told the board. “The sand is still seeping out through the holes, creating the sinkholes.”

“We thought we were ready for the season,” chairman Warren Doty said, “and just like within two days, a big sinkhole developed which our highway department filled with 13 bags of Sakrete …” 

“You can continue to do that, and nothing dramatic will happen if you continue to do that,”

Healy said.

Healy suggested driving in a curtain of half-inch rebar might slow down the formation of sinkholes. 

Selectman Bill Rossi judged the rebar proposition to be cost-effective and something that will “buy time” until a more substantial solution could be undertaken. 

The board agreed to the rebar idea, and thanked Healy for his consultation. 

“Any messages you want to give us from West Tisbury?” Doty asked. 

“Payment delayed is money saved,” Healy said.

His reply drew chuckles and smiles from the board and the audience.