Delay and Continued Shoaling Alters Dredging Needs in Chatham Harbor

Town Withdraws a Portion of the Permit Application Related to Chatham Harbor

Press Release from Robert Duncanson, Ph.D., Chatham's Director of Natural Resources

CHATHAM – Upon recommendation by staff and advice of Town Counsel, the Chatham Board of Selectmen authorized staff to withdraw that portion of a wetlands permit application for limited dredging in Chatham Harbor adjacent to the North Inlet. The remaining three areas of the permit application will remain as submitted. Such action will be considered by the Conservation Commission at its meeting on September 4, 2019. 

Modifications to the Town’s Comprehensive Dredging and Disposal permit were developed last Fall targeting, among other areas, localized shoaling in Chatham Harbor impacting navigation for commercial and recreational boaters, and public safety response. The application was
approved by the Conservation Commission and subsequently upheld on appeal by a local resident to MA Department of Environmental Protection (MADEP). The resident then appealed the MADEP approval to the MADEP Office of Dispute Resolution (OADR). The resident also
appealed the Conservation Commission approval under the Town’s Wetlands Protection Bylaw to Superior Court.

While these appeals proceeded, and with litigation still pending with OADR and Superior Court, shoaling conditions continued to evolve rendering the limited dredging sought in the permit ineffective to provide a suitable navigation channel, and therefore, moot. Rather than continue
to devote time and resources to litigate a permit that would no longer be adequate to accommodate dredging needs for boaters, fishermen, and emergency responders, the decision was made to withdraw the limited Chatham Harbor dredge area request in favor of working on a more comprehensive dredging application. Department of Natural Resources staff will issue a letter to the Conservation Commission requesting only withdrawal of the Chatham Harbor portion of the application for its meeting on September 4, 2019.

Due to the delay and constantly evolving conditions in Chatham Harbor in the area of the North Inlet, the Board of Selectmen authorized staff to pursue a more comprehensive dredging plan for a greater area in anticipation of continued shoaling. The Board considers it imperative to
closely monitor changing conditions, plan for and devote the Town’s resources to those endeavors which will best serve the interests of the maritime community, and secure public safety. Accordingly, the Board accepted the recommendation of staff that a reassessment of the scope of the dredging plan for Chatham Harbor is warranted at this time.

The more comprehensive application will cover a greater area of Chatham Harbor to address anticipated dredging needs and dredged material disposal options with the knowledge that shoaling will continue to evolve due to ongoing changes in inlet and barrier beach configurations. Work is already underway on eelgrass surveys and sediment sampling needed for the expanded area.


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