In a recent email, the Sconset Beach Preservation Fund expressed the contempt with which they hold our Conservation Commission and the people of Nantucket. They called the ConCom decision “flawed ideological thinking”and said that the commission had ignored the science, the facts and the law. We believe the Conservation Commission made the right decision, protecting not only the beach and bluff in Sconset but also the island itself. We feel the SBPF’s determination to consume Nantucket’s beaches and natural resources while contributing to the erosion from the top of the bluff is a grave threat to Nantucket’s future. Our beaches are a vital part of Nantucket’s great appeal and a cornerstone of our island’s economy. We doubt that travel magazines will recommend Nantucket to their readers as a place with one of the “10 Best Geotubes”.

The ConCom and those who support them in this decision are not the reasons the bluff is still eroding and they will not be the reasons that houses and roads will have to be moved. Those things will happen because the houses are built on a sandy bluff facing the Atlantic Ocean. One may keep a house with its current siting a year or two longer, but it is not worth the destruction of public beaches to do so.

We would like to address the SBPF’s flawed thinking and state why we have every confidence that the ConCom made the correct decision.

Reason Number 1 - THE GEOTUBES AREN’T STOPPING THE EROSION.

The bluff has continued to erode in dramatic fashion after the geotubes were installed. One might think that the discussion of the tube’s appropriateness could end right there. Instead, we have heard the SBPF declare the tubes a success, although we have never heard them explain how they measure that success. There is very much less bluff than there was before this installation. The only verifiable success is that the tubes are still intact. As we have said time and time again, the tubes’ own survival is not their purpose nor is it any indication that they are succeeding.

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Although these photographs of the bluff over the tubes and were taken 5 days apart, the difference came in one day. The photograph above was taken on June 1, 2014, the one below on June 5, 2014. This is after a night of rain, not a 3-day nor’easter or blizzard.

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Photograph above taken in February 2014 after the geotubes were installed. Dirck is standing on top of the tubes behind the large boulders that fell from the bluff face.

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The photographs above and below were taken two months apart after the geotubes were installed.

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Reason Number 2 – SBPF’S ENGINEERED EFFORTS TO STOP EROSION IGNORE THE FACTS, THE SCIENCE AND THE LAW

After what appeared to be a reluctant acknowledgement of the effects of run-off from the top, the SBPF installed an unpermitted length of 4″ PVC pipe to transport rainwater to a drywell dug into the top of the installation. The pipe is too deep to address the surface run-off and too shallow to collect any of the water migrating from the adjacent wetland to the bluff face. It is also woefully inadequate to handle the volume of an ordinary rain. Given that we were told that its purpose was to handle road run-off, we are left to wonder if the SBPF’s engineers consulted with the project’s co-applicants, the Town of Nantucket and our DPW.

After the PVC pipe was left capped and off-line, some boards were staked into the rainwater breakouts, one notably being where the pipe is buried. A minimum of applied science, engineering or even common sense should tell one that rainwater would either stop at those dams, creating Baxter Lake, or would simply go around them, eroding their supports, widening the breakouts and continuing to do the same sort of damage as before.

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The SBPF engineer’s solution to road runoff involved throwing some 4″ pvc pipe over the side, ignoring the facts, the science and the law.

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The engineers used more advanced scientific methods the second time around – boards and straw. Photo above taken on June 1, 2014. The one below taken on June 6, 2014.

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Mission accomplished.

Reason Number 3 – WE BELIEVE THE SBPF HAS GIVEN MISLEADING AND INCORRECT INFORMATION TO THE CONCOM, THE MASS DEP, AND THE PUBLIC.

The SBPF has made claims of 40′ losses of the bank in the “previous year” at the site of “Bluff House” to the MASS DEP in their application for an emergency certification allowing the geotube installation. This claim was cited in the DEP’s issuance of that certificate. The photo maps they used to substantiate this claim are duplicates, identical save for lines drawn on one to represent the edge during the previous year. Our photos show beyond dispute that the loss is nowhere near that amount over a period of 16 months.

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The photographs above and below were taken 16 months apart – nowhere near a 40 foot loss.

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SBPF representatives told ConCom that unapproved plastic sheeting exposed after a storm was only used in a small section of the installation and was removed by the managing company. We have photographs of this sheeting used in a number of places throughout the installation. This environmentally harmful material is still in the geotube structure, with the potential to be released during future storms.

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The material in between the two geotubes in the lower left of this photograph is plastic sheeting.

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An SBPF representative stated in a recent interview on Geno TV that a house that was moved from the bluff to Monomoy was no longer generating tax income for the town. We think it is more than likely that the owners still pay taxes on their Monomoy home. That representative also said in the same interview that the sand coming from the middle of the island and being poured over the edge and, in effect, into the ocean is the same as Sconset beach sand. Anyone can look over the side of the bluff now and see that the sand is different. The sand coming from the middle of the island is not the same as the sediment (silt, clay, sand and soil) that the bluff contributes to this and other beaches..

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The above photograph of Dirck and meteorologist Tim Kelley of NECN on top of the geotubes was taken in May 2014. The difference in the sand from mid-island and the beach sand is obvious.

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Pit sand on the left side of the photograph above and natural bluff material on the right. Obviously different material.

Reason Number 4 – THE GEOTUBE PROJECT, ESPECIALLY IN IT’S PROPOSED 4100′ LENGTH, WILL EMPTY THE ISLAND OF AVAILABLE SAND

The geotube installation will do what this type of project does nearly everywhere – it will deplete local sand sources. Builders, landscapers and DPW road crews will have to pay more to have sand barged in. This sand taken from the middle of Nantucket and poured into the ocean will never be replaced. Once gone, it is gone forever and future generations will bear the consequences of the SBPF’s proposed depletion of our natural resources.

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Reason Number 5- THE GEOTUBES HAVE DESTROYED THE WETLAND SCENIC VIEW.

Is this anyone’s idea of a beach?

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An SBPF spokesman said that the geotubes would be recovered only in November and April, meaning that this could be our scenic view for much of the year.

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2 Responses to Why the Conservation Commission Made the Right Decision in Denying the Geotube Project.

  1. Robert H. Culbertson says:

    As the former of the property at 75 Baxter Road, I have witnessed the change in the bluff from 1950 to 2000, when my family sold the property. Thank you for providing the pictorial chronology of the degradation of the bluff. I have pictures from 50 years ago that I will share if interested.

  2. Dirck says:

    Mr. Culbertson, we are glad that you found the photographs to be of interest. We, in turn, would be very interested to see the pictures you have, and would like to show them here if you allow. Would you consider writing about your time on Baxter Road for this blog? We are sure that you could provide background and insight that most cannot.

    Dirck

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