A plan for the U.S. Coast Guard to begin construction on the new Menemsha boathouse sometime this summer was met with harsh criticism by a group of town residents at a Chilmark conservation commission meeting last week.
The Coast Guard presented the final design at the commission’s regular meeting last Wednesday. Permits are still being obtained, but the Coast Guard expects construction to be carried out over the summer months. The contractor, Mortenson Construction of Minneapolis, Minn., plans to bring in a construction barge to be located to the west of the Coast Guard pier for seven months. An overhead crane will also be brought on-site.
Realtor and town resident Debbie Hancock expressed concern that construction would interfere with the tourism traffic, and that the conservation commission meeting was the last place her opinion could be heard.
“A major portion of construction is in the first three months of our season,” Debbie Hancock said. “We understand you’re keeping the construction off the roads as much as you can and we appreciate that, but there are certain things that need to be addressed and this was the only place I knew where to address them.”
The conservation commission received a handful of letters urging construction to begin in the fall, including a form letter petition with 75 signatures.
“Menemsha Village is one of the main reasons that tourists visit Martha’s Vineyard,” the letter reads. “The summer traffic is bad enough without machinery traversing the roads and huge barges in the harbor ... for safety’s sake and financial hardship, we hope that you will consider conditioning the permit to rebuilding the Coast Guard boathouse by requesting that they postpone construction until after Labor Day.”
A supply barge is expected to make four or five deliveries throughout the construction process, Mortenson contractor Mike Homer said. A typical work day is from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“We can make arrangements to make it work if it’s in the middle of the summer but it’s definitely going to be hard,” harbor master Dennis Jason said.
The new boathouse design has been a point of contention between the coast Guard and Chilmark town leaders, who were concerned about the size of the building. Responding to those concerns, Mortenson Construction reduced the size of the building. The original boathouse was 3,000 square feet and two stories high. An initial design for a new boathouse called for 4,800 square foot building and three stories.
The final design is for a 3,160 square foot boathouse with two stories, though the building design appeared to be three stories to accommodate a row of dormer window. It also includes space for the station’s 27-foot search and rescue vessel.
The new boathouse will replace the 68-year-old boathouse, along with the surrounding pier system that was destroyed in the July 2010 Menemsha fire. The piers have since been rebuilt.
Congress has approved $10 million for the project.
Even with the town concerns, the construction company said they would move ahead with summer plans. Mr. Homer said work needed to be done in the summer and fall months due to sustained temperatures needed to lay down the concrete, noting the temperature needed to be above 45 degrees.
The town conservation commission approved the structure with a series of conditions: work should honor the spawning season for winter flounder, construction debris must be contained on a barge and crews must work with the harbor master to schedule deliveries. A survey of eelgrass beds must be conducted before and after any work begins, as well. Several other eelgrass protective measures will be put into place.
The Coast Guard does not need the approval of the town but presented the final plans as a courtesy.
“Ultimately we want to be a good neighbor,” Mr. Homer said.