Aquinnah tribe has big plans for Sandy funding

By: George Brennan

The chairman of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) says the tribe will use an $882,793 grant to assess road repairs, remove invasive plants choking out native plants, restore tidal flows in Herring Creek and work with other agencies on shellfish production, habitat protection and emergency response.

In a detailed email sent Wednesday morning, Aquinnah Tribal Council Chairman Tobias Vanderhoop said he was grateful for the efforts of the tribe’s Natural Resources Department in obtaining the grant.

The Aquinnah grant, which is $670,000 plus $212,793 in unspecified matching funds, was one of 54 awarded by the U.S. Department of the Interior under the Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Competitive Grant Program.

“Hurricane Sandy was a powerful storm that brought many aspects of the need for enhanced preparation to light for our tribe,” Vanderhoop wrote. “This grant was composed specifically to address future planning and restoration to lands that continue to be impacted from the hurricane.”

The only other recipients in Massachusetts were the National Wildlife Federation and two state agencies. The town of Sandwich failed in its bid to get a portion of the $102 million awarded to restore its storm-ravaged coastline.

In its application, the Aquinnah specified four projects that would be priorities if the tribe received the money, Vanderhoop wrote.

The first project is assessing Lobsterville Road, which was “severely impacted” by the storm, he wrote. A culvert needs to be replaced and a coastal dune was lost. The tribe will use the money to hire engineers to consider what steps should be taken, Vanderhoop wrote.

Grant money also will be used to carry out a management plan to remove invasive species growing on dunes. The plants prevent the success of beach grass and “choke out the wild cranberries and beach plums desired by the tribe,” Vanderhoop wrote.

A third project that will receive some of the money is restoring tidal flows in Herring Creek, which Vanderhoop described as a vital resource between Menemsha and Squibnocket ponds. It is a stream used by herring to spawn.

“The Herring Creek has shoaled greatly and requires dredging at the mouth of the stream at Menemsha Pond, fortification of the embankment as well as removal of sediment throughout the stream itself,” he wrote.

Finally, the money also will be used for a multi-jurisdictional aquatic resource project, Vanderhoop wrote.

“The Natural Resources Department works cooperatively with the towns of Aquinnah and Chilmark to support marine concerns such as shellfish production, habitat protection and emergency response,” he wrote.

“We are extremely excited about receiving this grant award,” Vanderhoop wrote.

Follow George Brennan on Twitter: @gpb227.