Edgartown selectmen hear plea to help Sengekontacket Pond

— File photo by Ralph Stewart

Friends of Sengekontacket, a private group working to restore Sengekontacket Pond, has offered Edgartown selectmen detailed recommendations on improving the health of the popular salt pond. The recommendations are based on a report from the Massachusetts Estuary Project, which studied Sengekontacket and other ponds over a period of five years or more.

“We all smelled that smell,” said Terry Appenzellar, holding up a jar of dark algae collected from the pond this summer. Ms. Appenzellar presented the recommendations for Friends of Sengekontacket. “This is what’s growing, because it’s overburdened with nitrogen.”

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection issued target levels for total nitrogen getting into the pond in reports issued in September. Those levels would require sharp reductions in the current level of nitrogen leaching into the pond from septic systems, and preventing any new nitrogen loading from future development.

Ms. Appenzellar said there are 56 shoreline property owners on the Edgartown side of Sengekontacket, which straddles the town line between Edgartown and Oak Bluffs. “That represents $80 million in tax-based revenue in Edgartown,” she said. “It’s not a small problem.”

She asked selectmen to work with Oak Bluffs officials to create a district of critical planning concern (DCPC) around Sengekontacket Pond. The Martha’s Vineyard Commission would formulate a proposal, and if the town adopts the proposal as a bylaw, a DCPC might allow Edgartown and Oak Bluffs to require longer setbacks, limit lawn fertilizers, and curb future growth.