Mill Pond dredging proposal attracts support
Nearly all of the 25 or so West Tisbury residents who attended an Oct. 3 public hearing on the future of the Mill Pond supported a proposal to dredge the pond, which has shoaled from an accumulation of organic muck. Glenn Hearn, chairman of the town selectmen, convened the hearing and fielded questions about the dredging project, including cost, method, timing and required permits.
Last year, the selectmen and conservation commission hired Aquatic Control Technology Inc., a company specializing in pond and lake management, to evaluate the condition of the pond and describe options for managing the 2.5-acre man-made body of water. The report, completed in December of 2006, found that muck has reduced the average water depth to 1.7 feet.
"They haven't done it [dredging] in 25 years or something," said Mr. Hearn, a proponent of dredging.
While Aquatic Control Technology Inc. estimated that it would cost $500,000 to $600,000 to dredge the pond, Mr. Hearn said that he talked to people in the excavation business who estimated the cost to be more likely $125,000 to $150,000.
West Tisbury's Mill Pond has shoaled. The town is considering dredging. Costs are estimated as low as $125,000 or as high as $600,000. Photo by Ralph Stewart
Mr. Hearn also spoke to officials in Westport, where there was a similar problem, who spent $300,000 to dredge Gray's Pond in their community. Mr. Hearn said the Westport pond is nearly the same size as Mill Pond. "It's amazing how similar it was," he said, adding that the dredging of Gray's Pond was more complex than Mill Pond would be.
Mr. Hearn said that Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds could pay for the dredging, as an open space project. If the selectmen agree to the plan, Mr. Hearn said applications for CPA funding might be filed before Oct. 31. Town voters will need to approve the use of CPA funds for the project, as well as the hiring of a consultant. A special town meeting might be held in late November or early December. The consultant will help create a design plan and help the town get the required permits. The planning and permit process would take about a year and cost roughly $20-30,000. The dredging project itself would then be presented to voters on the annual town meeting warrant in April.
Several questioners wanted to know how the pond, if dredged, would be maintained. Marian Irving of Old County Road asked how the town will stop growth and silt from feeder streams from flowing into the pond.
Conservation commission member Judy Crawford agreed that maintenance "is very important and needs very much to be built into the total plan."
Even with regular maintenance measures, Mr. Hearn reminded the crowd of the reality of the situation, "I believe that the dredging we're talking about now is going to last for quite a while, but not forever."
How to do the dredging was also a discussion topic. Tad Crawford suggested the town borrow the transportable dredge to be used on Edgartown Great Pond. "It may be a resource, even if you have a local contractor, a resource that you may be able to work into the solution. It'd pay to learn maybe a bit more about that."
Mr. Hearn said he was open to the suggestion. He also spoke of the possibility of West Tisbury getting its own dredge, "That's something that we're going to look at."