Delicate Discussions Ahead For Goose Hummock Bulkhead Repairs

By: Ed Maroney

Topics: Waterways

The western (left) and eastern portions of the Goose Hummock bulkhead can be seen in this photo taken during work on the outfall drain that runs under the site. COURTESY PHOTO

ORLEANS The town's Goose Hummock bulkhead on Town Cove sees a lot of action, both by humans and nature itself. While the western bulkhead remains in good condition, the eastern one, which ties into Goose Hummock's private bulkhead, was rated “poor” in a study.

“Multiple holes were observed through the timber sheets at the mudline and several large sinkholes are observable along the landward side of the structure,” Scott Skuncik of Foth Engineering wrote in a report to the town last year. “The timber piles are in 'satisfactory' condition with observable minor ice damage and section loss.”

A major concern, since addressed by the town, was the “compromised” outfall pipe underneath the eastern bulkhead. There were large holes within the outfall, and a “sinkhole along the immediate backland surface area behind the bulkhead corresponds directly to the location of the outfall,” the report noted.

“Material was getting through the boards of the bulkhead,” DPW/Natural Resources Director Tom Daley told the selectmen Aug. 7. “It was never designed for any significant weight. (It was) originally for pickup trucks and cars.”

The town acted on the report's most pressing recommendations. The owner of the abutting Goose Hummock shop was notified about the problem, and vehicles were banned from the eastern bulkhead. Repairs were made to the outfall.

The report recommended replacement of the eastern bulkhead by 2023, a process that would take about three to four months.

The options, Town Administrator John Kelly reminded the board Aug. 7, involve protecting the bulkhead with steel or with stone (rip rap). Town Meeting provided funding to do either, but the board held off on a decision and concentrated on fixing the outfall first.

Kelly described the trade-offs for each option: steel would be more expensive to build but less costly to permit, while rip rap would cost less to build and more to permit. “We didn't want to make the decision without the board weighing in,” he said.

He added, “the town has to take responsibility for its own. We need to figure out how to end the joint at the property line (with Goose Hummock) and avoid our liability going forward.” Kelly said his recommendation, and that of other town staff, was to “replace the steel bulkhead with rip rap and be out of the bulkhead business at that landing.”

Even with the rip rap, Daley said, some steel will be required so the Goose Hummock section is not affected. “The rest could be rip rap,” he said. “The only negative is that you lose some real estate; the rock will have a slope to it.”

“Before we get too far,” Selectmen Chairman Mark Mathison said, “we need to sit down with the owner of the property there. It affects the whole cove, a major business in town. There are liability issues all around.”

Daley asked if the board had a preference he could share with the private property owner, but Mathison demurred. “Because that's such an intricate, tight area,” he said, “I can't tell you what my favorite plan is til I sit down with the guy living right next door, not until I know what the consequences will be.” Kelly said Goose Hummock had been given a copy of the report last year.

On Tuesday, Mathison confirmed he had spoken with Goose Hummock owner Phil Howarth. “We are looking at times that will work for a sit-down with all of the parties involved to have a discussion about where we can go with the bulkhead and town land that makes sense for all involved,” Mathison wrote in an email to The Chronicle.

At the Aug. 7 meeting, Selectman Mefford Runyon wanted to know about long-term maintenance costs for each option. “A steel bulkhead can last 50 to 75 years,” Skuncik said. “This bulkhead is exposed at low tide, so it has a 50-year lifespan or less. A revetment has an unlimited life span. The stones shift, (but with a) lining and a toe under the water, you don't get undermining.”

When Mathison noted that, “even though you're not supposed to,” some people are launching boats “power on” near the bulkhead, which “undermines the ramp and surrounding structure.” Skuncik said “rip rap reduces that prop wash a lot more.”

Replying to an email request for comment, Howarth wrote that “the bulkhead continues across the back of our building. It's been there so long it is hard to tell if the bulkhead itself is pinned under the building itself, which is a concern, but we will make things work as I fundamentally believe in the need to repair the bulkhead as quickly as possible and will work with the town however we can to support the project.”

That said, Howarth has objections to the way the town has addressed the situation so far.

“The town put bollards across the patch of land between our building and the ramp last year from a safety perspective,” he wrote. “The down side of this is that area is used by the many visitors in the summer and the bollards there give the impression that the area is closed and I can't help but feel it turns customers away from us in the summer as they believe something is wrong.”

Howarth wasn't happy about the town leaving a large steel plate in place to cover a hole that developed in the bulkhead “right next to the steps down to our docks.” He wrote that he had it covered with carpeting before the town removed it, though he's still concerned that the ground there is “very uneven.”

Given that the town worked on repairs to the outfall drain over Memorial Day weekend, Howarth wrote, he's concerned about the timing of a major bulkhead project. The Memorial Day work “caused massive disruption to our business in the outdoor center... the place was a mess and we lost tens of thousands of dollars in...revenue on what is our second biggest sales weekend of the year. I was very disappointed that the town chose to complete the work then, when they had the previous six months to do it with no impact.”

Asked to respond to Howarth's comments Tuesday, Daley replied by email that the property blocked off by the bollards “is owned by the town. From a safety standpoint, we need to make sure for certain that no one drives onto it.” Regarding the steel plate, he wrote, “it was installed to cover the hole from the failing culvert long before (Goose Hummock's) docks and steps went in.” Regarding the timing of the drain pipe repair, Daley wrote that the town “designed, permitted, bid and constructed the repairs as quickly as possible... We fast-tracked the job and started before Memorial Day so he'd be open for the season.”