With Mill Pond in mind – what’s happening to ponds elsewhere in the state?

To the Editor:

The town of West Tisbury has begun a discussion about what, if anything, should be done to maintain the Mill Pond, a man-made impoundment of the Mill Brook in the center of West Tisbury.

So far, the discussion has focused mainly on dredging the pond again — the pond was last dredged in 1970. There has been a great deal learned in the last 40 years about the ecology of stream ecosystems and their associated wetlands, and how man-made diversions and impoundments affect those natural systems, including increases in water temperature, the ability of wetland vegetation to remove harmful nutrients, and the ability of native fish and wildlife to move freely up and down the stream.

Having grown up in this town, I understand and appreciate the strong emotional attachment to the visual and historical aesthetic of the Mill Pond at this location, but I also think that we need to be aware of all the information and current scientific knowledge available to us before making any decisions about how to proceed.

Since our annual town meeting last April, I have been learning about how other towns across the Commonwealth have chosen to deal with the management of their man-made impoundments. In many cases, they have chosen dam removal and restoration of native stream flow as an option. Further research led me to the folks at the state Division of Ecological Restoration (DER), a division of Fish and Wildlife.

After several phone conversations with Tim Purinton, executive director at DER, and Beth Lambert, river restoration program coordinator, I have arranged for Beth to come here and give a presentation on some of the 70 projects that they have been involved with all across the Commonwealth. She is not coming here to advocate one action over another at the Mill Pond, but to share with us what DER does and how they can be a resource. Any suggestion that dam/sluiceway removal and restoration of the native flow of the Mill Brook being a option for the Mill Pond is entirely my own.

Additionally, while I am the chairman of the West Tisbury conservation committee, I have arranged this presentation on my own, without the involvement of the commission.

Beth Lambert’s presentation will be at the West Tisbury Library this Saturday, November 6, at 4 pm. I hope interested folks will join us. We have a real opportunity to make the best decision, both fiscally and environmentally, for the whole lower Mill Brook system, including the water quality and the health of fisheries of Tisbury Great Pond, not just the aesthetic qualities of the Mill Pond. I would hate to see us miss it. Thank you.

Prudy Burt

West Tisbury