RJ Turcotte: Conservation Commission Right To Order Removal Of SBPF Geotube

On March 22nd , 2021, while reviewing the Sconset Beach Preservation Fund’s mandatory 2019 annual report, it was discovered that the project was behind in providing required mitigation sand by 20,735 cubic yards – equivalent to 1,481 dump truck loads missing from our beaches.

SBPF referred to this enormous deficit as a “clerical error.”

Conservation Commission Chair Erisman respectfully requested that SBPF provide a plan to bring the project back into compliance. Instead, on May 17th at the 2020 SBPF Annual Report review, SBPF appeared empty-handed. The 2020 Annual Report revealed a project even further out of legal compliance, and over 3,288 dump truck loads behind. Once again, the ConCom asked SBPF to provide a plan to make up the deficit.

Instead of a plan, Chair Erisman received an email (now public record) from SBPF Chairman Josh Posner detailing how the organization had no plans of obeying their agreed-upon legal mitigation obligations unless their plan to expand the project by thousands of feet was permitted.

In the 44 days between the May 17th Annual Report Review and June 30th enforcement hearing, the Land Council worked with Trey Ruthven (Applied Coastal Research and Engineering) and Dr. David Kriebel (Coastal Analytics), two experienced coastal engineers, and created a viable 4-year plan which SBPF could use to provide the missing sand.

Mr. Posner continued to insist on permitting the expanded erosion project before the current one would be remediated. Understandably frustrated, the Commissioners voted 6-1 that failure criteria had been met, that SBPF was not acting in good faith to bring the project into compliance, and that the project needed to be removed as outlined in the permit.

With the removal order in place and the meeting adjourned, SBPF submitted a plan that would take 4 years to replace less than half the missing sand. The project would still be noncompliant, and the beach would continue to shrink. It is critical for the Town and community to understand that while the existing geotubes may be preventing erosion along the bank where they are constructed, the lack of adequate mitigation sand is causing erosion to other properties.

This series of events brought us to September 2nd’s meeting. The Commissioners, all volunteers, once again gathered via Zoom to debate all alternatives to the removal order. Over half a dozen different motions were proposed, and in the end, after two and a half hours, the Commission concluded there was only one. After a 5-1 vote the Enforcement Order for removal was issued.

A small but crucial part of our local government functioned exactly as it should, despite political and special interests’ pressure to stop the process, and the challenging scenario they faced. As we work toward coastal resilience on Nantucket, one cannot achieve resilience for themselves while harming their neighbors and the environment.

On behalf of the NLC Board and staff, we extend our sincerest thank you to the Commission for their integrity. You make Nantucket a better place.


RJ Turcotte
Nantucket Waterkeeper

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