A meeting called to discuss long-range management for the Menemsha Pond system took a surprise turn when a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers appeared to take an early measure of public opinion on a new plan to dredge the Menemsha channel.
Town dredging needs, including the possibility of a lease or purchase of a dredge, and needed repairs to the dock at Owen Park topped the discussion at the Tisbury selectmen’s meeting Tuesday.
Selectmen heard a presentation from Steve Miller of Ellicott Dredge in Baltimore, Md. Mr. Miller gave estimates for purchasing or leasing a dredge, including operation, maintenance and fuel costs. To buy would cost about $500,000, and to lease would cost $30,000 a month.
Landowners around Edgartown Great Pond are looking at buying a half-million-dollar dredge to improve the water quality of their pond, and potentially that of other fresh and salt water ponds on the Island.
As a first step, they will put up between $50,000 and $100,000 to lease the small, easily transported machine to conduct test dredging of the pond this fall. If all goes well, the plan is to buy it and take pressure off the increasingly-overtaxed town dredge.
To dredge or not to dredge? That is the question currently being bandied about in West Tisbury.
A specially-appointed research committee has split over whether to dredge Mill Pond, the historic man-made pond that graces the entrance to town on the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road adjacent to the police station. Two of the committee members, Bob Woodruff and Craig Saunders, believe that dredging is necessary to prevent the pond from drying up and disappearing forever.
The Oak Bluffs conservation commission this week received a waiver from the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act that is expected to fast-track plans to dredge Sengekontacket Pond. The dredge project is intended to improve tidal circulation and reduce bacteria levels.
Bacteria counts recorded in 2007 by the Division of Marine Fisheries during an annual spot check showed high levels of coliform bacteria, automatically triggering a three-year closure for shellfishing from June though September. This is the third year for the closure.
Nessie is her name. A new dredge for the Edgartown Great Pond was launched on Wednesday afternoon before a crowd of 50 friends and riparian owners around the pond. Nessie will begin her work in November by dredging the bottom and helping to improve circulation in the pond. The first project will involve removing a sandbar that has built up in the pond near the site where it is opened to the sea. Dredging the area is expected to make future openings to the sea stay open for longer periods of time. Other dredging projects will follow.
Last April Oak Bluffs voters approved borrowing $500,000 to pay for a dredging project in Sengekontacket Pond, but this week town administrator Michael Dutton said the town is having difficulty keeping the long-stalled project under budget.
“We’re working with Edgartown because it’s a joint effort on a joint pond,” he said at Tuesday’s Oak Bluffs selectmen’s meeting. “But when you break the numbers down it’s possible we are paying a slight premium to do so.”
The Army Corps of Engineers will dredge a 10-foot channel in the Oak Bluffs harbor in the coming weeks, to improve navigation and provide safe access for boats entering the marina.
There was a 30-day public comment period on the plan nearly six years ago. No comments were received.
This week the Corps released updated details about the project. While the project approved six years ago called for 5,800 cubic yards of sand to be removed, the amount has now been reduced to 3,500 cubic yards, as the town conducted an emergency dredge of the harbor in 2006.
Dredging is nearly complete at the Joseph Sylvia State Beach. For much of the fall, the Edgartown dredge has been pumping sand out of Sengekontacket, deepening a channel on the Oak Bluffs side, with the spoils trucked to Cow Bay for beach nourishment.
Norman Rankow, chairman of the dredge committee, said last week that the work in the area is winding down. The dredge will be removed from the pond probably by mid-January.