ICAN advocates for proactive measures in Aquinnah

Members want Island towns to be prepared for effects of climate change.

Selectmen view a presentation by Noli Taylor on preparation and action plans to combat climate change. — Lucas Thors

Members of the Island Climate Action Network (ICAN) met with Aquinnah selectmen Tuesday to discuss proactive ways of dealing with the increasing effects of climate change. 

ICAN member Noli Taylor said the network is in the early stages of conceptualizing a Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program.

The MVP program involves proactive planning in anticipation of environmental issues such as more powerful weather events, rising sea levels, and ocean acidification. 

“There is growing momentum across the Island surrounding climate change issues,” Taylor said. 

She explained that ICAN representatives are meeting with each town to develop individual plans.

“Our climate is changing fast, and we only have a small window of time to make big changes,” Taylor said. She mentioned an MV Times article that describes Martha’s Vineyard as one of the fastest-warming regions in the nation. 

Taylor explained that Island towns were built during a time when climate change wasn’t even an identified issue, but the Vineyard will have to adapt to changing temperatures.

“Aquinnah was built based on the climate that we have experienced in the past, and we will need to prepare our town for the new reality, so there is a foundation, so people can stay here for many generations,” Taylor said. 

She said getting ahead of some of these environmental issues will be less costly and more effective than dealing with emergencies as they arise. 

In the past year, Taylor said Aquinnah has established a Climate and Energy Committee, and created the Island’s only Community Emergency Response Team. “We have done so much in such a short span of time, but there is still a lot to accomplish,” Taylor said. 

Taylor said three basic strategies need to be utilized in order to prepare for the effects of climate change. The first is mitigation, which means cutting greenhouse gas usage. The second is adaptation, which reduces the community’s vulnerability to the changes we will soon see. 

She said armoring is a means of limiting the impact of sea level rise and flooding in coastal areas, by building solid structures. Although this prevents properties from being damaged, Taylor said it also comes with “some real downsides.”

“Armoring leads to further erosion on either side of the structure,” Taylor said. “So not the best option, but it is an option.”

She also mentioned elevating homes, raising roads, and taking different approaches to stormwater management. 

The third strategy in dealing with climate change is retreat. Taylor said avoiding new construction in flood zones and even unbuilding of vulnerable waterfront homes as options. “We want to figure out what strategies make sense for Aquinnah, and who will be making those decisions,” Taylor said.

Selectman Jim Newman suggested ICAN meet with the board monthly to discuss ways of preparing Aquinnah for these changes. 

Taylor reminded the room of the ICAN meeting on Nov. 16, from 10 am to 4 pm, at the Aquinnah Town Hall.

In other business, selectmen voted unanimously to include a warrant article for town meeting that would transfer $125,000 from the town’s stabilization fund to cover an increase in legal expenses for the FY 2020 budget as a result of ongoing litigation with the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah).