Edgartown pond riparian owners to foot dredging bill
Private homeowners on Edgartown Great Pond want to lease, and possibly buy, their own portable dredge, which would be used to help maintain the periodic openings created in the barrier beach between the pond and the Atlantic Ocean.
The Edgartown pond advisory committee unanimously recommended the proposal to the selectmen Monday. The selectmen held off making a decision until they meet again Monday, pending an opinion from town counsel on concerns about using private equipment on public property. The selectmen also wanted to let the dredging committee have a chance to discuss the matter in its meeting today.
The condition of the great pond on the south side of the Island prompted the actions by the homeowners and the committee.
Tom Wallace, chairman of the advisory committee, said the committee felt that the pond is "at an all-time low," in terms of water quality. He said the last opening was remarkably unsuccessful because any exchange of water was quickly choked off as sand filled in the manmade cut. "There is a tremendous amount of sand at the opening to the sea," he said. "Just to have the channel to the sea is 98 percent of the reason for the dredge."
Mr. Wallace produced many letters from homeowners from the Great Pond Foundation and others in support of the project, including Bill Wilcox, Martha's Vineyard Commission water quality expert and a member of the Great Pond advisory board. The foundation members have pledged two-thirds of the half-million dollars to pay for the dredge equipment, Mr. Wallace said.
The dredging plan would involve leasing the portable dredge from a company in California for a month this fall, according to Mr. Wallace. The equipment would be used to remove the delta that forms on the pond side of the cut and create a pond channel that would allow for the strong flow of water needed to maintain the opening for more than a few days.
If the dredge works, the Great Pond Foundation would buy it, he said. He also said the foundation would cover the insurance for the initial project.
Town administrator Pamela Dolby expressed concerns about the proposal because it requires town approval, and possibly a town employee to oversee a private project.
Paul Bagnall, town shellfish constable and marine biologist, said he did not see himself as overseeing the project because he did not have the expertise with the equipment. "The pond needs to be dredged," he said, adding that the town dredge is currently committed to Cape Pogue.
Steve Ewing, a private marine contractor, agreed that the area of the pond near the opening should be dredged, and said it it's been four years since it was last done. "We're getting a dredging project done that we're two years away from doing," he said, referring to the town's next scheduled dredging.
Mr. Ewing said he did not know a lot about the equipment being proposed. He also said private companies had done work for the town previously.
Norman Rankow, town dredge advisory committee chairman, said his committee had not discussed the proposal, but added, "I don't think there's a problem here. It's a good idea. It takes some of the stress off us." He agreed to take the matter to his committee for discussion today.
Selectman Arthur Smadbeck suggested the project should go ahead as soon as the town receives an answer from town counsel Ronald Rappaport. But selectman chairman Margaret Serpa said she preferred to wait until the dredge committee has an opportunity to discuss the matter.