The former chairman of the Edgartown dredge committee is at the center of a flap involving unathorized use of the town dredge for a project on private property in Katama Bay.

Norman Rankow resigned from the dredge committee last week, saying that he felt he needed a break. He had served on the committee since its inception.

The unauthorized dredging project came to light this week. Mr. Rankow is an Edgartown contractor who owns Colonial Reproductions. Edgartown conservation agent Jane Varkonda confirmed that on Jan. 13 the town dredge was used to take 133 cubic yards from Katama Bay at 51 Witchwood Lane, a property owned by Steven and Deborah Barnes. Mr. Rankow is the contractor for the Barnes property. In January the conservation commission had scheduled a hearing for work at the Barnes property for maintaining an existing timber dock, adding a float, and dredging about 66 cubic yards to use for beach nourishment. But the work was performed prior to the hearing, without the necessary permits.

In a Feb. 15 letter to dredge committee vice chairman David Nash, Mrs. Varkonda said the unauthorized dredging violated the state Wetlands Protection Act and the Edgartown wetlands bylaw. A survey ordered by the commission showed that dredging depths exceeded what was proposed, and the sand was not placed on the beach, but instead discharged into the harbor.

“In addition to proceeding without permits, the over dredging and disposal of the sand into the harbor are serious matters,” Mrs. Varkonda wrote. “Even if the work had been approved, it is apparent that the dredge crew did not have a copy of the dredge plan and did not know where to dredge. The commission recommends that the dredge committee turn the matter of the dredge crews’ involvement in this matter to town counsel.”

The conservation commission decided not to fine the property owners or the dredge committee, saying the amount of money the owner needs to spend for enforcement and restoration orders exceeds the commission’s maximum fine. And fining the dredge committee “serves no purpose,” the commission said.

After considering revoking “all permits for future dredging,” the conservation commission decided to recommend that no dredging occur at the site until problems are resolved.

The conservation commission had previously sent an enforcement order to Mr. and Mrs. Barnes, citing the property for the violations and noting that a Jan. 25 site inspection revealed “that the dredging had occurred outside of the proposed dredge footprint, and the sand had not been deposited on the beach, but instead had been pumped into Katama Bay.”

The enforcement order calls for a cease and desist from any activity in the resource area and buffer zone. According to the state Division of Marine Fisheries, the project site is within mapped shellfish habitat.

The state Department of Environmental Protection has recommended that the town shellfish constable conduct a survey to determine if any shellfish or eelgrass resources were negatively affected. The department has also said that compensation, perhaps in the form of a project beneficial to a nearby resource area, may be necessary for the sand dumped in the harbor.

The area where the work was performed also falls within the jurisdiction of the Army Corps of Engineers, which also notified Mr. and Mrs. Barnes by letter that work performed without a permit from that office may be a violation of federal law. The Corps has requested further information.

The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) also wrote a letter to the Army Corps, raising concerns about whether any archaeological resources had been disturbed. It was later determined that none had.

In a Feb. 3 letter to the Army Corps, Mr. Rankow said that he “never intended to do this minor dock dredging without seeking all local, state and federal permits . . . As is often the case in a small town, one must be careful of any conflict of interest issues. In this case I am afraid I have crossed over that line and caused these problems I hope to help resolve.”

The required notifications were going to be filed after the Jan. 18 conservation commission hearing, Mr. Rankow said in the letter. Because the dredge season ends on Jan. 15., he said, he gave the approval to the dredge to do the actual work on Friday, Jan. 13. “Notwithstanding this, my actions were clearly wrong but well intended,” he wrote.

“In closing I want to say that I deeply regret having jumped the gun here on this process. The Barnes family had no role in my actions in beginning the work ahead of final permitting. Dredging is a very challenging and tough business and my actions fell outside of accepted practices.”

Mr. Rankow could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Varkonda said the conservation commission will wait for results of the shellfish and eelgrass survey before proceeding.

David Nash, the new chairman of the dredge committee, acknowledged the problems yesterday but said the committee had not been directly involved. “The dredge committee never approved or voted to proceed with [the project],” Mr. Nash said, adding: “There is something wrong here because it’s the town’s dredge crew and the town’s equipment that did the job.”

Mr. Nash said he will “pick up the pieces when the dust settles” and establish new procedures for establishing accountability at the committee.“I don’t really know at this point what the town’s liability is,” he said. “I don’t think it would be appropriate to take actions against us . . . we did not authorize this job.”

He said Mr. and Mrs. Barnes donated $5,000 to the town for its dredge programs.

“Is that the end of it? I don’t know,” he said.