Nantucket Select Board: Candidate Questions, Round 3

Jason Graziadei •

They want your votes.

The 2022 Annual Town Election on Tuesday, May 10 is fast-approaching. Today we continue a series of questions for the four candidates vying for two seats on the Nantucket Select Board, the island's lead policy-making body. With current Select Board member Kristie Ferrantella not running for a second term, and the other incumbent, Matt Fee, seeking another three-year term, that means there will be at least one new face on the board this year. Fee is being challenged by Brooke Mohr, Henry Sanford, and Cliff Williams.

Question #3: The town's Coastal Resilience Plan proposes nearly $1 billion in spending on 40 different coastal resilience projects around the island. Describe your approach to evaluating this plan and prioritizing the initiatives it outlines.

Matt Fee: The Select Board doesn’t need to re-create the wheel regarding coastal resiliency. The town’s been proactive. We’ve got an excellent Coastal Resiliency Coordinator, Vince Murphy, as well as a diverse, dedicated Coastal Resiliency Advisory Committee. Together, with assistance from Arcadis, we’ve completed a detailed coastal resiliency plan which identified 40 priorities to tackle over the next 10 years. These are broken down by projects that impact all residents of the island, such as the Steamship Wharf, as well as resiliency measures for individual areas; Downtown-Brant Point, Madaket, Sconset, North Shore and Nantucket Harbor-Coatue.

Public awareness is high. In recent surveys 90% of respondents acknowledge the issues we face, which is great. To solve a problem you have to admit you’ve got one. Our community only needs to visit Easy Street on a full moon high tide to know we’ve got work to do.

An initial prioritizing happened at a recent Design Think Workshop. This meeting convened stakeholders, town staff from key departments and various committees, to brain storm how best to move forward. I was skeptical of what I initially perceived was a squishy, feel good approach. Though a numbers person, I was pleasantly surprised how this process forced everyone to participate, and the comradery and sense of purpose the group achieved. Three quick, implementable projects rose to top priority, interestingly, in different areas of the Island. Washington and Francis Street intersection downtown, Sesachacha Pond retaining wall, and Ames Ave-Madaket Road dune restoration and intersection improvements.

CRAC was recently approved as a standing committee. With their input, and alongside our consultants, town staff and various committees, including, but not limited to, Concom, Fincom and HDC, there is plenty to do. How do we obtain the most state and federal grant money possible? What is an equitable way to pay for these expenses? How do we source and allocate sand? And one of the most crucial; when and how do we incentivize and manage retreat? Retreat is inevitable over time in many areas of the island. The more we plan for it now, the easier it will be later. Before retreat can begin, we have to stop going forward. Sounds simple, but in reality, it’s not. It will require leadership, vision and a commitment to the common long term good of the entire island. I hope to be re-elected, Tuesday May 10, to remain involved in this important work.

Brooke Mohr: Nantucket sits at the leading edge of climate change risk. The scale of the threats associated with climate change to our island can feel paralyzing, which is exactly what happened to me when I sat down to write this. Simply overwhelmed.

The answer to feeling overwhelmed is not to deny or delay, it is to begin the process of evaluation and planning, so a pathway to achievable goals can be established. The CRP has done exactly that, and I am immensely grateful that we have this comprehensive analysis against which we can evaluate the myriad of decisions we will have to make in the coming years and decades.

What I appreciate most is the thoughtful process that was utilized to create the Plan. That process itself sets up the path to future decision-making on climate resilience and adaptation.

  • Establish an advisory group of committed community volunteers
  • Create permanent Town staff positions to coordinate the work
  • Do extensive outreach to maximize community engagement and input
  • Foster communication and collaboration across departments, boards and committees
  • Invest in independent professional expertise as needed
  • Acknowledge the scale of anticipated costs and start planning for funding source

While the one thing that is clear to me is that protecting the critical public infrastructure (ferry terminals, roads, bridges, landfill, etc.) upon which we all depend must be our first priority. As we move into action planning, I know that the Coastal Resilience Advisory Committee will continue to serve in its advisory capacity, supporting the Select Board, Town Administration and staff, while offering ongoing opportunities for public input and engagement. Coming together to solve our big issues is the path to success.

Henry Sanford: Regardless of your beliefs in climate change, we can all agree it would be negligent for a Town surrounded by the ocean to not consider the impacts of changing shorelines and flood hazards.

The Coastal Resilience Plan can be polarizing, and leaders need large buy-in from the seasonal and year round community to have any measure of success. It requires confidence in our leaders, and the plan those leaders are attempting to execute. This is key if the Town is to have future support for ambitious goals that might require decades to accomplish. Sensible brick & mortar projects coupled with honest dialogue with key stakeholders will keep the process focused, and discourage politics surrounding the issue.

I believe an emphasis should be on the Town waterfront. Flooding of downtown Nantucket poses the largest risk to the whole community. Recent examples were the flooding of the power station on Sea Street and destruction of the town dock. These events caused major disruptions and cost millions of dollars to fix. Docks will inevitably be worn by weather, but the continued relocation of critical infrastructure must remain an immediate priority.

This week a flash flood overwhelmed the island storm-drains, causing damage to dozens of homes and businesses throughout the island. Stormwater drainage is a town responsibility and within its control to improve. This drainage affects the Town waterfront’s ability to hold storm surge, and can flood mid-island when not working properly.

Property owners in flood and erosion prone areas must be continuously engaged about the inherent risk of living in these environments. Brant Point is the most developed floodplain on Nantucket, and arguably more vulnerable than Town. This is where education and outreach must be prioritized. Leaders should engage in proactive conversation to avoid conflict, and identify projects with the largest potential buy-in. We don’t need repeated legal show-downs over erosion and beach access all over the island.

As a child, our family lived on Old North Wharf for several years. During Nor’easters we would sometimes stay at a B&B in Town to weather out the storm. I will never forget evacuating during the No-name storm in the early 1990s, never to move back. There is no plan or amount of money that can stop the ocean’s fury or a rise in sea-level. Coastal resilience must be viewed through a lens of harm-reduction and common sense. Nantucket is a fleeting place, geologically speaking. The real tragedy to avoid is fighting amongst ourselves as we inevitably slip into the sea.

Clifford Williams: This subject is right up there with fertilizer: we have been talking about it forever but nothing seems to get done. They built the Madhatter downtown sixty or seventy years ago about six feet higher than normal because it flooded around Easton St. and S Beach St. and it still does. The Madhatter is long gone, so the flooding of downtown isn't going to stop anytime soon, there is nothing new about sea level rise, it's been going on for ten thousand years. We can't even fix all the pot holes we have or figure out what we are going to do with the landfill, there is a lawsuit over the Sconset bluff, that's never ending. Coastal Resilience, let's start with the low hanging fruit and let John Kerry save the planet, but that would take standing up to the Chinese and that is not going to happen. Not sure where we are getting all this money, I just proposed a low income housing development for town employees and it was shot down as a result of not having the money ?

8 E70 BE26 B1 D3 476 D BA28 353 F14 E8 A4 DC
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