TIMELINE for SIGNIFICANT EVENTS RELATED to
SENGEKONTACKET POND and JOSEPH SYLVIA STATE BARRIER BEACH
1874-Martha’s Vineyard Railroad was constructed and placed in operation on the barrier beach,
1896 connecting Oak Bluffs and Edgartown.
1903 (February) The State assumed responsibility for the bridge on the Edgartown (south) end of the beach.
1937 (February) The opening to the pond on the Oak Bluffs (north) end of the beach began, in order “to provide the circulation of fresh water in the upper portion of the pond where stagnation causes much objectionable odor in the summer and also has a damaging affect on the shellfishing beds”. The following year, shellfish harvests were reported as improved.
1937 Two stone jetties (85 ft. and 160 ft, in length) and a timber bridge (46 ft. wide) were constructed at the Oak Bluffs end of the beach. Riprap was placed at the sides of the south (Edgartown) opening, and along the pond side of the road.
1946(June 11) The State took land from Oak Bluffs and Edgartown by eminent domain to create the Joseph Sylvia State Beach.
1954 (June) The State constructed four stone groins. The three northernmost were 150 ft. long, and the southernmost groin was 125 ft. Groins were spaced at 400 ft. apart.
1961The State constructed two stone jetties at the south inlet, at 400 ft. (northernmost) and 200 ft. in length.
1970The State extended the northern jetty at the southern (Edgartown) inlet to the pond.
1978(Spring) The pond was dredged, and the Edgartown channel was dredged to a width of ten feet, for a distance of 1,100 ft. into the pond, with the spoil deposited to nourish the beach. The stone jetty at the northern end of that channel was extended by 200 ft.
1985-Extensive dredge planning, fund raising, reviews, permitting procedures and final designs took 1988 place from 1985 to 1988, with the goal of dredging 40,500 cubic yards from the pond for
placement on the beach, with 1.5 acres of beach grass to be planted.
1988The State cancelled the dredging project, citing “budget cuts” as the reason.
1989The State erected 200 ft. of “Jersey” barriers along the roadway to protect then shoulder of the roadway. The Town of Oak Bluffs asked the Corps of Engineers to develop a long-term solution to the problems of beach erosion.
1990Friends of Sengekontacket was established to promote protection and management of the pond.
1992(June) The Corps of Engineers prepared a report for an “Emergency Shore Protection Project”. (Item 2 in Annex D)
1992The State provided $14,600 for engineering studies for dredging of the pond. The Corps completed an environmental impact statement, finding no Significant Impacts. The towns requested that the contract be expanded to include the construction of two additional stone groins and additional quantities to be dredged. Ocean Surveys Inc. conducted measurements of then areas to be dredged and other engineering studies.
1992(December) a major storm caused severe damage to the beach and the roadway (see Figure 4 for the location of the worst damage) and traffic was halted until emergency repairs could be made.
1993(January) CZM of the State rejected the plans because of the groins, despite recommendations of their benefits by the Corps of Engineers and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Later, the State DEM approved the dredging project, but without the groins, and the State DEP approved the dredging permit.
1993 (February) A contract was awarded to AGM Marine for the dredging project at a cost of $444,000. In June, the contract was amended to increase the amount to be dredged by 2,500 cubic yards. The project was completed in July 1993.
1994The Martha’s Vineyard Commission prepared a “mini” management plan for the barrier beach (Item 4, Annex D).
1998A State-financed consultant (ENSR) prepared an extensive, 3-volume report on long-term maintenance alternatives for the barrier beach and roadway (Item 6, Annex D), but none of its recommendations, many of which were disputed by island organizations, were implemented.
1999-Friends of Sengekontacket developed a detailed proposal for the preparation of a management 2001 plan for Sengekontacket Pond to be funded by the National Estuary Program (NEP), but the
proposal was unsuccessful as program funding became unavailable.
1999-Many studies were conducted and reports prepared over the past five years, as noted in Annex
2004D. Plans are underway to rebuild the two channel bridges on the roadway, but no significant
man-made physical changes have occurred on the beach or roadway, or in the pond since the last dredging project was completed in 1993.
Summary:The 1992 storm was the last to seriously disrupt traffic on the beach roadway, although other storms have deposited sand and stones on the roadway requiring removal.
While other projects may have been implemented earlier, the only significant recorded dredging took place in 1978 and 1993. It was 15 years between those two dredging projects, and it has now been 11 years since the last dredging took place.
 This timeline was based on one prepared for WHOI by a student as an appendix to a study dated September 10, 1993. It has been extensively edited, revised and updated.