The town of Oak Bluffs was awarded $3.6 million this week to repair the damaged North Bluff, helping the town achieve an ambitious fundraising goal for a coastal restoration project.
The grant was announced on Monday by the state department of energy and environmental affairs as part of a total of $13.5 million in funds pledged for breakwater, dam and seawall projects across the commonwealth.
The money brings the total to $7.5 million in outside funding for Oak Bluffs, a figure that includes $1.9 million in seaport improvement money from the state Seaport Advisory Council, and $2 million in federal emergency management agency (FEMA) disaster assistance.
“Clearly it is a fabulous piece of news and it will help us to complete our project on the North Bluff,” said Walter Vail, chairman of the board of selectmen.
The project involves rehabilitating the seawall to protect the North Bluff, which has eroded in past storm events and is vulnerable to future degradation. The North Bluff begins at the Oak Bluffs harbor, continues around the Island Queen parking lot, and terminates at the Steamship Authority Wharf.
The new coastal infrastructure will include a boardwalk designed to increase seaside access for handicapped and elderly individuals, and to improve the town’s pedestrian experience.
The seawall, which has been crumbling for some time, sustained major damage in Hurricane Sandy. At that point, with chunks of the seawall missing, it was determined to be a failed seawall.
The town applied for the grant at the end of August.
“This is a project the town has been working on for years,” said Elizabeth Durkee, town conservation agent, whose department spearheaded the project. “It is so exciting to have the funding we need to put it in place.”
Though shovel-ready for some time, the project lacked sufficient funding until this week, Mrs. Durkee said. Funding for planning purposes came from the Community Preservation Act and the state Department of Conservation and Recreation. The new seawall will be four feet higher than the existing one, and will run a distance of 720 feet below Sea View avenue extension. A revetment system will be engineered to fortify the bank, and thus preserve the integrity of the road.
“The seawall is holding up a major roadway in town, so it is in clear need of rebuilding,” Mrs. Durkee said. “If anything happened to that road, the whole transportation and ferry structure would be disabled . . . It is really a critical road for the town to protect.”
Following the completion of the seawall and boardwalk project, the town hopes to receive further funding to perform beach nourishment below the bluff where, historically, sand helped to protect the bluff from storm and erosion activity.
The grants are the result of an aggressive petition for outside funding, said town administrator Robert L. Whritenour.
“When you put them all together, that meets the scope of the project,” he said.
Mr. Whritenour hopes the work will begin before summer and conclude in time for summer of 2015.
The boardwalk will connect to the 317-foot fishing pier which juts out from Sea View avenue and is nearing completion.
“It is going to be one of the most important local coastal infrastructure projects,” he said.