Continued erosion around the Island — a phenomenon perhaps exacerbated by global warming and a rise in sea levels — has created a booming new industry on the Vineyard, as towns and private groups compete for the suddenly hot commodity of sand to use as ammunition in their battle against the sea.

A plan sponsored by the Oak Bluffs Conservation Commission to dredge 57,000 cubic yards of sand from a channel between Little Bridge and Big Bridge along Joseph Sylvia State Beach already has garnered a great deal of interest from both public officials and private citizens who are urgently seeking sand.

Edgartown wants to get a cut of the sand for the Bend in the Road Beach; Dukes County wants a piece of the sandy gold to renourish State Beach, which has slowly eroded since the last major beach renourishment some 15 years ago.

Meanwhile, the private Cow Bay homeowners association in Edgartown this week contacted Oak Bluffs selectman Duncan Ross about buying a large volume of sand for the barrier beach in front of Trapp’s Pond, which has been badly damaged by years of erosion. The barrier beach now faces the prospect of being totally washed out to sea.

The Cow Bay association last year paid approximately $150,000 to help underwrite an Edgartown dredge of Sengekontacket Pond, and in exchange received around 17,000 cubic yards of sand. But a powerful northeaster washed away much of that sand in April, and the Cow Bay homeowners are again in the market for a large delivery of sand.

In a conversation with the Gazette this week, Mr. Ross said Edward Cerullo of the Cow Bay homeowners association contacted him by phone this week with a proposition to purchase around 25,000 cubic yards of sand from Oak Bluffs at a cost of $1 million. Mr. Ross mentioned the offer during a meeting of the town conservation commission on Tuesday. The meeting also was attended by members of the joint Sengekontacket committee, the Friends of Sengekontacket and the Oak Bluffs Sea View Waterfront Committee.

Mr. Ross said selling the sand to Cow Bay could fund future endeavors to improve tidal circulation and decrease bacteria levels in Sengekontacket Pond.

Bacteria counts recorded in 2007 by the state Division of Marine Fisheries during an annual spot check showed high levels of coliform bacteria in Sengekontacket Pond, automatically triggering a three-year closure for shellfishing from June though September.

Since that time, a joint committee made up of members from Oak Bluffs and Edgartown was created to oversee the cleanup of Sengekontacket, with Mr. Ross as chairman. Earlier this month, the town received a waiver from the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act, clearing the way for the latest dredge of the pond to begin as early as September.

Mr. Ross said Oak Bluffs has first call on the harvested sand, and plans to use approximately 17,000 cubic yards of spoils to renourish town beaches, specifically at the old Pay Beach and Inkwell Beach. He said Edgartown is seeking around 10,000 cubic yards for the Bend in the Road Beach, while the county is still calculating how much it will need for State Beach.

Mr. Ross said Oak Bluffs at least should consider the offer from Cow Bay, noting the town is in the midst of an economic crisis, with a projected shortfall of around $500,000 for the current fiscal year. If there is sand leftover after Oak Bluffs, Edgartown and the county take their share, the town may be in a position to sell the remainder, he said.

“If there is enough to go around, this could generate money that could be put right back into cleaning up Sengekontacket Pond,” he said. “Sand is a hot commodity right now. We should consider our options.”

The Vineyard is especially susceptible to wave erosion. The Island terrain is made up of little more than soil and rocks left behind at the end of the last ice age some 18,000 years ago. The result is severe erosion along the Island’s south and east coasts, especially after springtime storms and northeasters.

And unlike many other states battling erosion, like Florida and North Carolina, Massachusetts does not allow offshore sand mining, which on the Vineyard leaves dredging the coastal ponds as one of the few viable options for harvesting the precious commodity of sand.

Oak Bluffs Conservation Commission chairman Joan Hughes said she expects the buying and selling of sand to become more common in coming years as erosion continues to take its toll on the Vineyard shoreline.

“Using sand to renourish a beach is an ongoing, constant process. Basically as soon as you put the sand down, it starts to wash away. Sand is like gold around here right now, and it will only become more valuable in the coming years,” she said.

Ms. Hughes said Oak Bluffs is ahead of the curve when it comes to dredging and harvesting sand, largely because the town has been working on a plan to repair the town waterfront since February 2008 when a 30-ton retaining wall near the Pay Beach unexpectedly collapsed.

The incident forced the town to start work on coastline engineering and order a number of studies into such issues as sediment transport. The town also has received support from numerous state and federal regulatory agencies, including MassHighway and the U.S. Department of Transportation, which have a vested interest since the coastal dune supports a state highway.

Ms. Hughes said shoreline engineering will help the town acquire permits to continue dredging in Sengekontacket and other areas. The town now is only allowed to place sand above the mean high water mark. More engineering and studies will allow sand to be placed at the high tide mark where it is most effective at stopping erosion

“We are studying everything right now, starting with where the sand comes from to where it goes. And by next spring we hope to have a long-term plan which will identify the best places to put the sand. The plan is to get a permit to dredge Major’s Cove, where the flow has almost come to a standstill,” she said.

Lynn Fraker, a consultant and permitting expert for the joint Sengekontacket committee, said dredging projects will become more important in the coming years as erosion threatens beaches and the Island in general.

“I think it’s clear erosion is taking away our beaches. You can just see it happen to many beaches over the course of a few years . . . sometimes less than that. A lot of people want this sand. It’s going to become its own industry,” she said.