Edgartown declared a local state of emergency Wednesday after a series of winter storms decimated South Beach’s dunes and surrounding roadways.

Officials are looking at dredging to get more sand for South Beach. — Ray Ewing

In a meeting with the select board, town officials and environmental engineers discussed the best way to get the popular recreation destination open for summer. The board voted in favor of the declaration, which expedites the permitting process to dredge and restore sand in the area and opens the town to additional sources of funding and reimbursement from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), town administrator James Hagerty said.

“If the biggest public beach on the Island were to suddenly be gone, that would be a big problem” he said. “It’s a solid return on investment.”

Officials’ top priority is restoring Left Fork, the easternmost section of South Beach abutting Norton Point. The area is not as damaged as the other side of the beach, and can more easily be recovered using existing materials and funds, parks commissioner Andrew Kelly said. The town has already put out a request to begin dredging Katama Bay for sand and is in contact with the state Department of Environmental Protection, said conservation agent Jane Varkonda.

Atlantic Drive is also quickly becoming a major safety concern, according to highway department superintendent Alan DeBettencourt. The roadway is currently closed to the public, preventing several homeowners from accessing their properties. Near Right Fork, the culverts have sustained serious water damage, he said, and the department will need to consult with an environmental engineer on how best to reconstruct them. Mr. DeBettencourt estimated the costs to repair Atlantic Drive and the culverts at $5,300 and $16,000. 

Town officials are still calculating the estimated costs of damages to the beach and surrounding area and the budget for necessary repairs. The deadline to apply for state emergency aid is Jan. 23. 

The road near South Beach buckled in the recent winter storms. — Ray Ewing

In the meantime, Mr. Hagerty encouraged the parks department and conservation commission to get all other budget requests in time for the June 30 special town meeting, since the annual town meeting deadline has already passed. 

As the effects of climate change worsen, he stressed that the town should continue to search for a long-term solution.

“We’ve got to come up with some plan here,” Mr. Hagerty told the room of officials. “We’ve all seen since we were kids, the acceleration of erosion getting faster and faster.”

“If we have to reroute Atlantic Drive in my lifetime…that’s a likely possibility.”