A multi-million-dollar project to engineer and stabilize the badly eroded bluff along East Chop Drive has seen its timeline pushed farther into the future, while Oak Bluffs town officials worry about ongoing deterioration in the face of severe storms accelerated by climate change.

Last week the Martha’s Vineyard Commission approved a request from project engineer Carlos Peña to extend the completion date for the project to 2026. Among other problems, primary funding for the work, including a $10 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA], remains pending, Mr. Peña told the MVC.

Multi-million-dollar project aims to re-engineer and rebuild the bluff with new revetment below. — Ray Ewing

The town is also applying for a $3 million grant from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, and at the annual town meeting in April will ask voters to approve roughly $4 million to go toward the project, according to assistant town administrator Wendy Brough.

“We’re looking at multiple prongs, and to put the least [amount of money] on the taxpayers as possible,” Ms. Brough told the Gazette by phone.

Meanwhile, she said concern is growing about rapidly deteriorating conditions on the bluff.

“Basically the whole of East Chop . . . [has] been eroded at an increasingly rapid rate due to these storm surges and wave action,” Ms. Brough said. “So what happens is the wave surging is undercutting the cliff and the top of the cliff is falling down. That will just continue and continue to keep eroding that whole east face back.”

A section of East Chop Drive was permanently closed to vehicle traffic in 2018 out of concern for public safety. Pedestrians and cyclists are still allowed to use the scenic coastal roadway, perched high on the bluff overlooking Vineyard Sound. The area includes historic homes and a lighthouse.

In 2012, the road was further compromised after remnants of Hurricane Sandy blew across the Vineyard, undermining the cliff and creating a condition called slumping, which means the bluff was destabilized at the bottom allowing the top to slump down.

In 2018, a three-year plan to repair and stabilize the bluff cleared approval with the MVC. But at the time the town still needed $17 to $20 million to pay for the project.

Funding hurdles have continued since then.

The planned work will include reconstruction of 1,200 feet of an existing stone revetment, raising it about 10 feet to account for wave surge and expected sea level rise. The revetment would also be expanded by more than 30,000 feet to a total area of 77,650 square feet along the foot of the bluff.

“[The project] will just build in a stone seawall, or revetment, around the chop,” Ms. Brough said. “And also we’ll be able to rebuild that road, East Chop Drive, so that it’ll be functional again.”

Part of East Chop Drive has been closed to vehicle traffic since 2018. — Ray Ewing

A four-foot shoulder is also planned for pedestrian traffic on the rebuilt road, with a ramp to connect the road to the revetment.

The revetment slope would be reduced from 34 to 27 degrees, and the bluff will be replanted planted with native salt-tolerant vegetation such as bayberry, beach plum, rosa rugosa and little blue stem.

Erosion has been well documented at the East Chop bluff since the late 1800s. Over the last century bulkheads and revetments have been built to protect the lower part of the bluff, but the last time major work was done was after Hurricane Bob in 1991.

Now the new work is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2023, once the funding gets sorted out, Mr. Peña said last week.