Mill Pond dredging resurfaces in West Tisbury

Mill Pond, West Tisbury — File photo by Ralph Stewart

The need to fill a spot on the Mill Brook watershed study committee sparked a discussion about dredging Mill Pond, at the Wednesday, August 21, West Tisbury selectmen’s meeting.

Selectmen chairman Richard Knabel said that proposals sought in a request (RFP) issued in June for a study of the Mill Brook watershed, which includes the Mill Pond as well as Fisher Pond, Crocker Pond, and Priester’s Pond, are due by September 3.

Selectmen said there is a need to appoint a third member of the committee, to join Mr. Knabel and Rick Karney, executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish group, that will review the RFPs.

The RFP seeks qualified consultants, and voters at the annual town meeting in April approved $15,000 to finance the study.

The data collection study is to begin this fall and take a year. Once completed, an RFP will be issued for analysis and interpretation of the data, and recommendations.

Discussion about the committee prompted comments from several of those in attendance on why it was necessary to complete a watershed study prior to the town taking any action to dredge Mill Pond.

The notion of dredging Mill Pond, the historic and scenic pond next to the town police station, has been discussed and debated extensively in recent years. Some believe that the pond should be dredged to prevent it from drying up. Still others believe the pond can be maintained by simpler and less costly measures such as removing weeds. Another option is to remove the dam and allow Mill Brook to return to its natural state, as it was before the arrival of English colonists, allowing free passage of fish.

“As chairman of the Mill Pond Committee I would say that the committee is unanimously in favor of doing a watershed study generally as described in the posting,” said Bob Woodruff.

Mr. Woodruff said the study and dredging need not be linked. “All but one member of the committee feels that the Mill Brook watershed study would have zero affect on the existing condition of the Mill Pond,” he said.

He said the silting of the Mill Pond is the end result of the runoff from the 3,000 acres of the watershed over a long period.

“The need, if there is a need, to dredge the pond, is the result of a historical accumulation,” he said. “The watershed study will look at the next 50 years and give us an idea of what we can do over the next 50 years to not get silt in the pond.”

West Tisbury resident Paddy Moore asked, “What stands in the way of dredging the pond?”

Mr. Knabel said that dredging could only happen after a vote by the town to finance the project. He said the earliest that could happen would be this November or April of 2014.

In other town business, selectmen voted to donate a soon to be decommissioned police cruiser to the Tri-town ambulance service. Selectman Jeffery “Skipper” Manter voted against the gift because he said the car has serious electrical issues.

“It runs,” he said, “but it will have problems in the future. They should have a better car.” Selectmen also voted to accept Julie Keefe’s resignation after 15 years as zoning board of appeals administrator with gratitude for her many years of service.