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Dramatic “Shoreline Realignment” In Store For Nantucket’s Eastern Shore As Bitter Intra-Governmental Dispute Continues – Climate Change

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Just before the Labor Day holiday, a Massachusetts Superior
Court Judge allowed the Nantucket Conservation Commission to move
one step closer to causing what the Town’s expert calls
dramatic shoreline realignment on the Island’s eastern shore.
What the expert calls shoreline realignment you and I would call a
good piece of the Island falling into the ocean.

The Judge didn’t doubt this potential effect of his decision
but correctly concluded he didn’t have much of a choice.

At issue is a “soft” bank stabilization project
sponsored by property owners on a steep eroding coastal bank. In
exchange for permission from the Nantucket Conservation Commission
to construct the “soft solution”, the property owners
agreed to conditions established by the Conservation Commission,
including having to do with the amount of sand that would be
imported by the property owners to the beach annually to make up
for the sand that theoretically wouldn’t erode from the
stabilized bank. The property owners didn’t comply with that
condition and the Conservation Commission now says the “soft
solution” has to go.

The Judge says that if the Conservation Commission’s
conditions aren’t arbitrary and capricious (and he found these
weren’t), then the Court can’t step on the Conservation
Commission’s toes, and neither can anyone else.

This is the latest chapter in a pitched battle between the
Conservation Commission, the Board of Selectmen that appoints the
Conservation Commission, and the property owners who have spent
millions to protect their properties (and the public way and
utilities that go past them) from the dramatic effects of climate

Putting aside what the property owners, the Conservation
Commission, and the Department of Environmental Protection could
have done differently here, this sad story is yet another example
of how it is way too hard to implement ecologically sensitive
solutions to the devastation our Green House Gas supercharged
climate has done and will do to our coastlines. Massachusetts
legislation is past due to address this continuing harm.

In the meantime we’ll see whether the Conservation
Commission actually pulls the pin on its hand grenade now that the
Court has given it permission to do so.

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