Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
The attached letter has been circulated to the The Trustees of Reservations and the Mass Division of Marine Fisheries:
In my view, the ongoing oceanic and coastal processes witnessed at the Trustees property at Wasque Reservation and Leland Beach should not become part of the Schifter’s relocation plan.
The Trustees’ environmental management strategy to let nature run its course is the best plan in view of the 21+ mm rise in sea level since 2006. (NOAA-Sea Level Rise/Nantucket Station Data) The lowering of the coastal bluff for a view and deforesting the building site has greatly accelerated this lot’s erosion rate. This erosion prompted the emergency installation of the coir envelopes permitting the Schifters time to move their residence to another location. More activity will continue this process.
No public plan shows what that move will involve. We understand that International Chimney and Expert House Movers of Maryland are the contractors for this activity. The guest house now sits less than 65 feet from the 30 foot sand cliff (washed by high tides) in an unprotected condition; I don’t feel any plan should involve the Trustees at this time. I believe it is too late. This guest house site has lost 20 feet horizontally in the past month. The adjacent forested Trustees land lost “only” nine feet. Ironically, I have had conversations with Rick and Jennie Schifter as far back as April of 2011 about what was happening near their beautiful estate. They were hoping for “closure” sooner rather than later. It took six years for the opening to reach the proximity of Chappaquiddick Island and with the stated 4,400-plus feet left to reach Wasque Point, my view is at least another six years will be needed.
While most folks seem to point to the Katama breach as the cause of this erosion, after three years of photographing the process, I’ll use words from Woods Hole scientists, “Keep on speculating”. Jerry and Sue Wacks still have a home site at the Breach and it appears Norton Point has moved past Trustee’s Lane, taking its island modification program to the east of their property. The approximately 500-foot wide channel will get deeper and they will lose more land but for now the process is proceeding to the east, leading Norton Point’s advances.
Sites I have been monitoring since 2011 are once again showing erosion rates of four to eight feet per month and one beach has retreated 100 feet after being static for most of 2012. What we don’t know will be the truth. The Trustees should stay the course and be nature’s steward as it has for all these years. Hopefully the coir envelopes will be gone by September 2012 so Derby fishermen can enjoy their fishing rights as protected by Massachusetts colonial ordinance, and nature and the ocean can restore Wasque and Leland Beach to their latest condition.
Capt. Bob Gilkes, Edgartown