Dredging at Sengekontacket continued on Wednesday after a weeklong delay in an effort that has already seen what appear to be endless hurdles. 

Dredging was halted on Veterans Day after a member of the Wampanoag Tribe registered concerns with the Army Corps of Engineers about the placement of a dewatering plant in the pond. The Army Corps relayed those fears to Oak Bluffs which has spent the week moving the dewatering site from Sengekontacket to State Beach.

Concerns centered around the amount of silt being churned up and emptied into the pond from the dewatering site. The tribe has used the pond for thousands of years and believes artifacts still remain in its sediments. Last year dredging was halted after what may have been a piece of a Wampanoag fishing weir was found in the pond. Work was halted again by the National Marine Fisheries Service over fears of eelgrass bed destruction, and again this year by the Army Corps of Engineers for the same reason.

“Nowhere in the permit is it mentioned where the dewatering site should be,” said selectman and board chairman Duncan Ross at the Tuesday selectmen’s meeting, “but [the Army Corps] came and looked at it and apparently they didn’t like [where it was] so we are moving to the other end of the channel and dewatering where we’ve dewatered before . . . Unfortunately the Army Corps, as soon as the tribe says anything, they jump, and I think the Army Corps needs to not jump quite so high so often. But we are back on track.”

Town administrator Michael Dutton said it is now unlikely dredging will conclude on schedule. The town could apply for an extension if it does not complete work by Jan. 15. If work is not completed this season it could be almost a year before work could begin again.

“The dredge window opens up again on June 15 but we don’t dredge during the summer,” Mr. Dutton said.

Commercial fisherman Bill Alwardt took issue with the pace and financing of the overall project, which will not only dredge the pond but renourish Pay and Inkwell beaches.

“[$500,000] seems like an awful lot of money to me to truck that sand to those beaches,” he said. “If we end up with half a project, or have to go back to the townspeople to ask for more money because of trucking I don’t think that’s fair to the pond. We should be looking at the health of the pond, not the beaches. I understand we’re trying to nourish the beaches too but at what expense?”

Selectmen voted to keep in place a single tax rate for residential, open space, commercial, industrial and personal properties in what selectman Ron DiOrio described as a “pro forma” vote. However, during discussion Oak Bluffs principal assessor Diane Wilson illustrated the nosedive in property values during the economic downturn.

“I think just about everybody’s value is going down this year,” she said. When pressed, Ms. Wilson estimated that the overall town property values had dropped by around $200 million.

Mr. DiOrio: “That’s a serious number.”

“It’s a sign of the times,” she responded. There were, however, some glimmers of hope among the financial rubble.

“I won’t say sales are recovering but they’re doing better than they were last year. We actually have some sales that are selling for over their assessed values ... there’s no way we’re going to recover like it was. People’s values were going up 300 per cent a year. This is the market correcting itself,” she said.

Tuesday saw selectman Gregory Coogan return after six weeks recovering from a fall from his roof on Oct. 11. Sporting crutches Mr. Coogan expressed his appreciation for Island support.

Selectmen also voted to open Oak Bluffs harbor to shellfishing for recreational permit holders on Saturday, Dec. 11 and commercial on Dec. 13. They reappointed Fred Hancock as the town representative to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and appointed Evangeline Costa to the conservation commission.