By Michael Krause
Study of Quahog for Nitrogen Filtration
In 2012, FOS funded a Martha's Vineyard Shellfish Group (MVSG) grant request of $10,000 which would extend the retention of 400,000 quahogs (out of 2-4 million seed placed annually) in Sengekontacket to study any increases in nitrogen filtering. The MVSG operates nurseries/hatcheries (Vineyard Haven, Chappaquiddick, State Hatchery) for Island wide shellfish stock. MVSG annual budget was derived mostly from Town assessments which had been kept flat (despite rising costs) over the previous few years. In 2013, the Oak Bluffs Shellfish Constable reported that he had closed those areas stocked with adults from brood stock and that they would be opened rotationally in 2014.
Hurricane Sandy Damages State Beach
Following the partial destruction of the Barrier Beach dunes from Hurricane Sandy and severe Nor’easters in the fall of 2012, FOS with the BBTF developed proposals to FEMA requesting funding to restore the dunes in the Oak Bluffs area of State Beach. We reviewed all State Beach development and sand nourishment documents since the major Beach/Dune restoration program in 1995. We photographed (both aerial and ground) damage sustained by the beach and dunes from over-wash and erosion. In 2013/14, we were finally told that since we had not had a recurring yearly plan to replenish the sand or maintain the sand fencing since the state reconstruction in 1996, they would not fund the proposed restoration project.
Emergency Dredging of Little Bridge Inlet
In 2013, FOS was asked by the Oak Bluffs Shellfish Department to help fund the emergency dredging of the Little Bridge channel, which had been closed for most of a year following Hurricane Sandy. The great concern was for the health of the pond. Oak Bluffs could not fully fund the needed dredging. FOS provided $10,000 for the emergency opening of the channel. In 2015, the Oak Bluffs Shellfish Constable was able to help get a commitment from Oak Bluffs selectmen to fund the yearly dredging of the Little Bridge channel.
Saturday's on Senge
This weekly summer program started in July 2012 to provide hands on educational
experience for children and their families about the pond. Located on the pond at the Little
Bridge, FOS funded Mass Audubon at Felix Neck to provide educators for these programs over seven Saturdays. Topics included: birds (types of and nesting habits), aquatic life (hand netting snails, crabs, shells) beach grass, and where does sand come from (sand sifting).
The program ended in 2018.
In 2015 FOS and Dukes County initiated a State Beach Dune Restoration Project. With experts from WHOI Sea Grant Program, we developed a proposal to rebuild the dunes using dredge material from Little Bridge inlet, install sand fencing in critical dune areas and add plant nourishment to develop the vegetation to help hold the newly deposited sand. Yearly re-nourishment from sand from the Little Bridge Inlet and fence maintenance would be provided. The plan was approved by MA Dept of Environmental Protection, MA Dept of Fisheries and Wildlife, and the Oak Bluffs Conservation Commission in the fall of 2015. The initial beach sand nourishment and fencing installation was completed during the winter of 2015/16, with new grasses planted in spring. Several large over-washed areas were replanted by a commercial company. Dukes County pays for the sand nourishment and fencing, FOS provides the management, engineering and vegetation nourishment for the dune development.
A review in the fall of 2020 by our consultant from Woods Hole Sea Grant program, confirmed that the dunes have developed beautifully over the past few years. They have grown 10-15 feet in width and built up to the level of the old dunes. The beach grass FOS planted has grown and helps anchor the dunes. We think this is a positive story of how FOS has contributed to preserve and protect the Barrier Beach and pond.
FOS Sponsors Summer Interns
A Summer Intern Program was initiated by FOS in 2014. In partnership with the Oak Bluffs and Edgartown Shellfish Departments and the MVC, we developed a program to sponsor a student interested in marine sciences to work a hands-on, in-the-water educational program. Tasks range from planting oyster beds to Phytoplankton sampling and analysis. With superb results from the first two summers that the position was offered, in 2017 we added a second internship. Grants have been obtained over the past several years from Farm Neck, the Permanent Endowment of MV and the Whitehall Foundation to support the expanded program. Several of our recent interns have returned to the Island to work on environmental programs with other agencies and organizations.
Salt Marsh Elevation Monitoring
In 2015 the MVC proposed a project to monitor the elevation of saltmarshes on Martha’s Vineyard to plan for the needs of these vital habitats as climate change proceeds. A monitoring system had been developed to precisely measure and monitor minute changes in the elevation of saltmarshes. Felix Neck was chosen as an essential first location to begin monitoring saltmarsh elevation on Martha’s Vineyard. Three Rod-SET (Surface Elevation Table) stations were funded by FOS. We assisted in the installation of the equipment which will be monitored by the MVC staff over the coming years.
Restoration of State Beach Signs
The large Barrier Beach sign located at the beginning of State Beach in Oak Bluffs had degraded to the point of being unreadable. In 2017 a new sign was designed, fabricated and installed by the development team of Steve Zablotney design, WHOI Sea Grant, FOS and Dukes County.
In 2020, FOS and Dukes County are developing new signs to be installed at the old Kiosks at the Little Bridge and the Big Bridge. FOS proposed and received a grant from the Edey Foundation to fund the signs. Dukes County is providing additional funds for more extensive redesign and installation. The same development team who developed the Barrier Beach sign is working the project.
Experimental Oyster Beds
In 2017 FOS sponsored and funded a new MV Shellfish Group project to develop small oyster beds in the upper reaches of Majors Cove. An established oyster population in the upper reaches of the Cove may help mitigate nutrient inputs and reduce algal blooms before they work their way downstream to the larger pond. From spawned oyster broodstock, bags of spat on shell were planted at four experimental sites in August 2018. Results of oysters collected in fall of 2019 were very encouraging.
In 2020, the project focused on growing oysters to a larger size than in previous years, before planting them on the proposed sites. The larger oysters will a better chance of survival from predation. An estimated 1.5M oyster larvae spawned in 2020 will be overwintered in cages and planted in Senge in the fall of 2021.
Cleaning Up State Beach
In 2018, FOS took on the responsibility to greatly improve and maintain the cleanliness of State Beach dunes, beaches and roadway, especially in the summer. FOS organizes several major cleanups of State Beach each year. In 2018, we also funded a group of young people to pick up trash on the beach and roadside several times a week during the summer months. FOS collaborates with Dukes County to provide additional funds for the summer Beach Patrol Officer to help with daily roadside cleanup, check on dogs and bird restricted areas.
FOS continues the very successful, long term (over 25 years) Carry In/Carry Home program. The yearly contest by the Oak Bluffs and Edgartown schools develop new signs to be installed at each beach entry way to remind visitors to take their trash home. “Nipsey”, a shark made from beach trash, showcases the extent of the trash collected in a couple of days on the beach.
Bathymetry, Tidal Flow and Climate Change
2018, the Barrier Beach Task Force (BBTF) was approached by the MV Shellfish Group and Oak Bluffs Selectmen requesting support/funding of depth measurements in Senge to understand silting of the pond over the past 20 years and develop a plan to improve the circulation in Majors Cove and Felix Neck. We talked to Oak Bluffs Administrator who said Oak Bluffs would pursue funds for dredging if we could help with the overall data and analysis.
In 2019, working with Sheri Caseau at the MVC, an FOS science team came up with a plan to support Bathymetry and Tidal Flow measurements in Senge. This is the largest project we have underwritten in the past 10 years, $15,500 for the Bathymetry and $6700 for the Tidal Flow measurements. The Bathymetry measurements were made in the fall of 2020, and the Tidal Flow measurements are planned for spring of 2021. We are currently working with Woods Hole scientists and the MVC to define the data analysis needed to compare the new data with the 20 year old MEP data. Once the analysis is done, we will recommend to Oak Bluffs, the MVC and other parties on possible mitigation measures.
In 2021, the MVC established a the Climate Change Coordinator to work the climate change issues on the island, we plan to extend the project to see what
work could be done to help mitigate the potential
effects on the barrier beach and pond.