In order to qualify for federal emergency funds after significant storm damage last week, the Edgartown Select Board declared an emergency for the South Beach area.
The board did so at a Wednesday meeting with the town parks commission, which was well-attended by officials from other town bodies.
Much of the meeting involved descriptions of damage to the area, and discussion of funding opportunities from federal and other sources.
Parks commissioner Andrew Kelly described damage at South Beach, including the failure of a culvert at Right Fork, which caused a partial collapse of Atlantic Drive. “There are two pipes that run across [the road], and it just undermined it there and collapsed the asphalt,” Kelly said.
According to town highway superintendent Allan DeBettencourt, around $16,000 in repairs will be needed for the Right Fork culvert area alone.
Dunes along the beach also suffered. “The status right now is, obviously, between the Dec. 18th [storm] … and the one on Jan. 10th, we’ve lost significant dunes,” Kelly said.
A bathhouse at the beach also likely needs to be removed, to provide an adequate slope for a dune. The bathhouse “is in hard shape,” Kelly said.
At the meeting, town administrator James Hagerty asked the select board to declare a local state of emergency, as part of a process to seek funds through the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA).
Hagerty said that after last week’s storms, MEMA asked emergency managers statewide to report to them any local responses to damage, and short-term plans. Edgartown must apply to MEMA by Jan. 23, after which the agency will then determine eligibility for federal emergency assistance. Those funds would be available on a shorter time frame than grant funding.
Kelly also spoke about shorter-term strategies at South Beach. “We’re pretty confident that we can do a lot, and definitely be open for the summer,” he said.
For next steps, Kelly recommended action at Left Fork, and the beach’s primary dunes.
“Those are the priority because of how close the water is, and because you have to have access to those houses out on Atlantic. And then the second thing will be [to fix] the [Right Fork] culvert, and maybe even shore up a little sand [there] — just enough of a dune on that corner to hold, just in case we do get another storm.”
Kelly added that this would require a permit from Massachusetts to move sand from the Down Harbor area. Moving this sand would also enable access to Norton Point, and the protection of homes along Navy Way.
So far, propane trucks have been able to pass through to help heat homes on Atlantic Drive.
Kelly said there is currently no way to estimate how much sand will be needed at Right Fork, but that some work could be done to protect the culvert.
Town administrator Hagerty said that federal funding would allow the town to spend outside of appropriated funds, if needed. “It just puts the mechanism in place, as necessary. I think we can all agree that it is an emergency out there. We got a culvert blocking a public road … prohibitive access to various neighbors … all those factors [are] in mind.”