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State to Investigate Former Edgartown Dredge Committee Chairman

Selectmen turn matter of unauthorized dredge work over to state ethics commission

The state ethics commission will be looking into the actions of Norman Rankow, the former chairman of the town dredge advisory committee after Tuesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting in Edgartown. Rankow violated town and state environmental laws last month when he authorized the use of the town’s dredge for a private client in Katama Bay without necessary permits from federal, state, and local regulatory agencies. 

The Martha’s Vineyard Times reported that town counsel Ronald H. Rappaport strongly voiced his criticism at the meeting and recommended the town take action against Rankow.

"This is a very serious matter, that town equipment was utilized to do unpermitted dredging for private benefit in Katama Bay, and to dump the spoils into the bay… It's the type of activity that undermines the public's faith in their government. It's necessary that the selectmen and other town boards take forceful action."

Rappaport recommended referring Rankow’s actions to the state ethics commission to which the selectmen agreed without hesitation.

Rankow, who has been on the dredge committee for the past decade, did not attend the meeting. Rankow resigned from the dredge committee in a letter dated February 2. According to the Times, the letter, ”made no mention of the burgeoning controversy over the unpermitted dredging project on property owned by Stephen and Deborah Barnes.” Later Rankow admitted that he authorized the use of the town dredge last month for the Barnes property without the proper permits from the town conservation commission.

Apparently, the Barnes’ were unaware that the dredging was unauthorized.

The conservation commission’s survey showed not only that the Barnes project dredging depths exceeded what was proposed, but also that the sand was dumped into the bay instead of onto the beach as it should have been. As a result, there are now enforcement orders from the town conservation commission, the state Department of Environmental Protection, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah).

The Times reported that, “The Army Corps of Engineers and Department of Environmental Protection are now considering how they will enforce their regulations. They have a range of enforcement options. They could order the owners, at their cost, to restore the dredged area. They could order mitigation in the form of some environmental benefit such as shellfish seeding or beach nourishment in another area of the bay. They could also impose substantial fines.”

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