Nearly a year after Hurricane Sandy battered beaches, bluffs and docks from Aquinnah to Oak Bluffs, some towns are still waiting for federal funding for repairs.
To date, Dukes County and Island towns have been approved for or received more than $3.3 million in federal emergency funding. But some major projects are still in limbo as towns wait for funds.
To be sure, the Island was spared the brunt of Sandy’s wrath. The storm, which made landfall in New Jersey on Oct. 29 of last year, killed more than 200 people, according to The New York Times, and devastated coastal areas in New Jersey and New York.
On Dec. 19, 2012, President Obama declared the storm a natural disaster in Massachusetts, making six counties — including Dukes County — eligible for federal assistance. Eligible projects can receive up to 75 per cent of a project cost in federal assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The hardest hit areas, financially speaking, were Chilmark and Oak Bluffs.
Oak Bluffs has received signed contracts to receive more than 75 per cent of $4.3 million in repairs. The work includes nearly $2 million in repairs for the seawall at the North Bluff and about $1.2 million for restoration of Jetty, Pay and Inkwell Beaches. The town will also receive $664,588 for repairs to East Chop road and the Seaview Avenue bulkhead and $553,086 for dredging at the North Channel in Sengekontacket Pond.
Town administrator Robert Whritenour said work on some of the projects, like the dredging at Sengekontacket and some of the beach restoration will start this fall.
But Oak Bluffs is still looking for funding to stabilize the East Chop Bluffs, which experienced what is known as slumping after the storm. East Chop Drive, the town-owned road that sits atop the bluffs, will be restricted to one lane of traffic over the winter for the second year in a row.
The town has requested $4.19 million from FEMA for the repairs, but questions about the ownership of the bluff have slowed the process. The bluff is owned by the East Chop Association, but the town maintains that repairing the bluff is integral to the safety of the road. And the town has paid for repairs in the past.
In an Oct. 18 letter to FEMA, Mr. Whritenour said the historical record shows that the town, state and federal government have “exercised control and responsibility over the area in question and have treated it as a public facility and an integral part of the public roadway since the late 19th century.”
Mr. Whritenour requested a meeting with FEMA. On Thursday, he said he hadn’t yet heard from the agency.
The storm also battered the Steamship Authority’s Oak Bluffs terminal pier, which was severely damaged by the high seas and rough waves. The pier was repaired over the winter at a cost of more than $2 million. The boat line applied for federal funding on Oct. 1, general manager Wayne Lamson said this week.
On the other side of the Island, Chilmark applied for funding for repairs to the parking lot at Squibnocket Beach, which are estimated at $200,000.
To date, the town has received about $700 from FEMA, town executive secretary Tim Carroll said, a reimbursement for town expenses during the storm.
Mr. Carroll said the town has not heard about the funding for Squibnocket. The parking lot was repaved last spring while the town looks at more extensive solutions.
Elsewhere, money has been received and repairs finished or underway. In Tisbury, selectmen signed contracts this week to receive FEMA funding of $49,837, 75 per cent of $66,450 the town needed to repair damage to the Owen Park dock. The dock was repaired last spring.
In Aquinnah, the town has received $24,000 in FEMA reimbursement for repairs done to Lobsterville Road, which was undermined by the storm.
West Tisbury filed a claim for $1,500 for reimbursement for overtime hours for personnel. Edgartown officials could not be reached for comment.
Dukes County has applied for funding for repairs at Joseph Sylvia State Beach. The storm surge badly damaged the beach, county manager Marina Thornton said, and the damage was well-documented by surveys and photographs.
The county has applied for reimbursement for three small projects totalling $16,987.45. The small projects include cleaning up beach debris, surveying storm damage, and dredging a small amount of sand from a channel at Sengekontacket. Most of that work has been completed, Ms. Thornton said.
One larger project would move sand from Eastville Beach to State Beach. Ms. Thornton said an engineer has been hired to work on this project, and was on the Island Thursday to take sand samples for analysis. After approval from the Oak Bluffs conservation commission, that project can proceed.
The county has applied for $126,841 in FEMA funding for that project.
The county has also been busy replanting beach grass, Ms. Thornton said, and has applied for a grant from the state to cover work that is not eligible for FEMA funding. Work on the beach has a deadline of April 1, when piping plovers and other migrating shorebirds return.