As Town & SBPF Pursue Expansion Of Geotubes, Tons Of Sand Barged To Island For Existing Project

Jason Graziadei •

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As the town and the Sconset Beach Preservation Fund (SBPF) join forces to push for an expansion of the controversial geotube installation at the base of the 'Sconset Bluff, the non-profit is working to bring the existing project into compliance.

To do so, the SBPF is bringing millions of pounds of sand to the island by barge and dumping it over the bluff. Last week alone there were three barge deliveries totaling 3,300 tons, or 6.6 million pounds of sand, completed by the Robert B. Our company.

The material is taken from a borrow pit in Plymouth, Mass., driven to New Bedford, loaded onto a barge for the 50-mile transit to Nantucket, where it is then unloaded and trucked out to the 'Sconset Bluff.

"The sand that is being delivered is being used to recover the face and front of the geotube system, to rebuild the ramps that were washed out in the last storm, and to replenish the template on top a bit to have sand available for recovering of the face and front after future storms," SBPF attorney Steven Cohen told the Current. "The goal is to make sure that sand is contributed in storms and that the system and the bank itself remain protected by sand. This sand also goes toward compliance, but I would characterize it as both operational compliance and volume compliance, not just volume."

The SBPF's Jamie Feeley said all of the sand is analyzed first to ensure it is compatible with the beach and bluff sand parameters before it is barged to Nantucket. The organization has previously sourced sand from both local Nantucket pits and from off-island to deliver it to the bluff. 

The amount of sacrificial sand delivered to the geotubes by SBPF has been a point of contention for years, and one that led the Conservation Commission in 2021 to order the removal of the 900-foot sand-filled erosion control installation over its failure to abide by the conditions of its permit - namely the requirement to contribute thousands of cubic yards of sacrificial sand to the project area each year.

It's unclear if that order will ever be enforced.

After the SBPF announced that it was abandoning its fight against erosion one year ago, the membership of the Conservation Commission changed due to Select Board appointments, and late last year the town and SBPF announced a joint notice of intent to expand the geotubes installation.

The sourcing of sand for coastal resiliency projects - not just the geotube project along the 'Sconset Bluff - is anticipated to be a hot-button topic for years to come as the town contemplates the nearly $1 billion worth of initiatives outlined in the Nantucket Coastal Resilience Plan to address sea level rise along the coastline.

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The tugboat Lucinda Smith towing a barge with approximately 1,110 tons of sand, destined for the Sconset Bluff. Photo by Kit Noble.
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Photo by Kit Noble
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Photo by Kit Noble
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Photo by Kit Noble
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Photo by Kit Noble
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Photo by Peter Sutters
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