Wampanoag oyster project gets reprieve
The Aquinnah selectmen voted unanimously Tuesday to give the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) another 30 days to clean up an oyster aquaculture operation on the western side of Menemsha Pond. The oyster project, abandoned for the past two years, has been an ongoing source of complaints from neighbors and the cause of substantial tax abatements to shoreline property owners.
At issue is whether the town will renew a lease of more than five acres of bottom below town owned waters, or issue a new lease.
Tribe chairman Cheryl Andrews-Maltais told selectmen the tribe intends to scale back the aquaculture operation, but maintain a presence as a cultural and educational resource. She said the tribe wants to renew the lease.
"Our respect and utilization of Menemsha Pond predates all who have come after us," said Ms. Andrews-Maltais, in a statement (available at mvtimes.com) she read at the meeting. "Our misfortune was that we allowed ourselves to believe that we should over estimate the potential and responsible use of the pond, inconsistent with our traditional practices. The realization and fact remains that the people of the tribe, as the original stewards of this Island and specifically Aquinnah, are responsible for having kept Menemsha Pond such a beautiful area."
Selectman Camille Rose said promises made four years ago about better stewardship of the leased waters, and a switch to more manageable aquaculture technology, were not kept.
"I have no faith at all that you are sufficiently committed to keeping that gear together," said Ms. Rose. "There should be zero tolerance."
Ms. Andrews-Maltais said weather conditions make it difficult to keep the aquaculture gear in perfect order.
"It's nature," said Ms. Andrews-Maltais.
"It's not nature, it's carelessness," said Ms. Rose.
Ms. Rose also disputed the tribe's contention that poor weather and a short timeframe prevented a complete clean-up.
"There wasn't any reason it couldn't have been cleaned up in 60 days," said Ms. Rose.
Durwood Vanderhoop, acting chairman of the Wampanoag Aquinnah Shellfish Hatchery (WASH), responded. "We've done what we could to strengthen all the lines and remove the bags from the beach," he said. "That's an ongoing process. You guys could decide to shut this down and go through the clean up yourself."