NLC News: SBPF Enforcement Action Update

NLC staff have been actively working to hold the ‘Sconset Beach Preservation Fund’s geotube projects accountable on two fronts.

First, the current project: SBPF did not conduct required quarterly beach monitoring or biannual underwater video surveys over the course of 2019, meaning that they were not fulfilling the requirements of their project permit. In addition, the Land Council and Nantucket Coastal Conservancy, as well as multiple concerned citizens raised the alarm about suspect fill material being dumped over the bluff by SBPF to cover their geotubes before the winter storm season. The fill, sourced from various construction sites all over Nantucket, was filled with bricks, pipes, hose, plastic and many other construction debris. Also an issue, the fill was suspected of chemical and biological contamination, due in part to a source of sediment that was removed from a former residential septic system leach field. The Conservation Commission issued an enforcement order in November which forced SBPF to halt all work until these issues were addressed. SBPF must send staff out every day to inspect the project, remove the trash and construction debris. This debris is to be photographed and stored off site, per order of the Conservation Commission. Once all debris is removed, SBPF will replace it with the same volume of proper, clean fill. The enforcement order also forced SBPF to hire a professional, independent laboratory to take samples of the suspect fill and analyze them for chemical or biological contamination. If any contamination is found at a higher concentration than what is naturally occurring on ‘Sconset beach, SBPF will be forced to remove the contaminated fill and face further enforcement action by the Conservation Commission. The NLC is still awaiting the results of laboratory analysis, but will continue to attend public meetings on the project and hold SBPF accountable.

Second, the expansion application: SBPF applied last year for a 3,000-foot expansion to the current 940- foot geotube array. The full expansion of the project was denied by the Nantucket Conservation Commission.  SBPF appealed the decision under the MA Wetland Protection Regulations to Mass DEP, and they appealed the decision under the Nantucket Bylaw to Superior Court. A superseding order of conditions was handed down by Mass DEP permitting large portions of the project, overturning our Conservation Commission’s original decision. NLC believes our local Conservation Commission made the right decision in its denial, and on February 11th, 2020 the Town formally appealed the Mass DEP decision, and have committed to stand behind the Commissioners and their decision. Land Council staff are working with our legal counsel and coastal engineering experts at Applied Coastal to determine our best strategy to support the Town and the Conservation Commission’s initial denial.

Denying this project was the right decision for Nantucket.