Even as the Conservation Commission weighs how and when it will enforce its order to remove the erosion control geotubes at the base of the Sconset Bluff, the Nantucket Select Board and the Sconset Beach Preservation Fund (SBPF) have announced a plan to significantly expand them.
Despite the pending removal order, the Select Board and the SBPF unveiled a draft Notice of Intent on Friday that would increase the size of the geotube installation from just over 900 feet, to more than 4,000 feet along Baxter Road in a phased approach to stabilize the bluff. The Select Board intends to review the draft plan at its meeting on Wednesday.
The latest developments come in the wake of a Nantucket Superior Court judge's decision to uphold the Conservation Commission's order to have the geotubes removed due to the SBPF's failure to adhere to the conditions of its permit for the project. Since that court ruling, the SBPF has apologized, and, together with town manager Libby Gibson, asked the Conservation Commission to suspend the implementation of the removal order, warning of "imminent bluff collapse" that could result from the "hasty removal" of the geotubes.
In a four-page response to Gibson and SBPF President Josh Posner, the Conservation Commission indicated it could potentially agree to a temporary suspension of the removal order and consider a new Notice of Intent for the geotube project - but only if that proposal did not include an expansion of the installation, or any other type of coast engineering structure.
And so the announcement of the draft plan to expand the geotubes once again pits the Select Board at odds with its own appointed commission, and raises the possibility of further acrimony and potential litigation over the long-running saga of the geotubes in Sconset.
The plan to expand the geotubes - which currently exists in draft form pending further discussion by the Select Board this Wednesday - was developed by town of Nantucket staff with assistance from its consultants, Arcadis and Epsilon, along with the SBPF. The public-private partnership, the town believes, has forged "a workable plan for bluff toe stabilization. This represents a significant step forward to resolving several long running issues."
The expansion of the geotubes would happen in phases, according to the draft plan, would include not only geotubes (which are like massive, sand-filled burritos), but also coir terraces and dune nourishment based on the bank conditions, along with bluff sand contributions.