West Tisbury selectmen approve Mill Brook study outline

This map shows the various dams and impoundments that impede the flow of Mill Brook. — Courtesy USGS

West Tisbury selectmen last week approved the last minor changes to a request for proposals (RFP) to be issued for a study of the Mill Brook Watershed. Voters at town meeting in April approved $30,000 for the cost of the study.

The Mill Brook Watershed Study Planning Committee will issue the RFP on October 15. Town administrator Jennifer Rand said the proposal will be available on the town’s website on October 10.

A similar RFP, issued last year, prompted only one response, due in part to the unspecific nature of some of the conditions and a cost limit of $15,000.

“Based upon consultant feedback there were several unclear, vague statements in the [first] RFP that made it difficult for firms to accurately project cost or added undue cost to the project,” study committee member Chuck Hodgkinson told The Times. “These things were clarified and tightened up. We also developed a watershed study purpose statement to help clarify the expectations for everyone. The structure of the original RFP was still very good and provided a good template for the current version.”

The study will look at the entire Mill Brook watershed ecosystem, including all streams and ponds and establish baseline readings for determining the water quality and general health of the Mill Brook watershed and their impact on Tisbury Great Pond. The goal of the study is to collect data over the course of one year, from January 2015 to January 2016.

The Mill Brook watershed drains approximately 3,400 acres of land — 3,000 in West Tisbury, 400 in Chilmark, according to the proposal. Mill Brook passes through five ponds of two or more acres before entering Tisbury Great Pond at Town Cove.

The watershed study concept has played a role in the struggle over differing visions of Mill Pond, a scenic, man-made pond on Edgartown Road. Some would like to see the pond dredged to maintain its historic scenic appeal and others would like to see the watershed area returned to its natural pre-pond state that would allow for the propagation of native water species.