State ferry decision overrules objections of residents

Construction continues on a new terminal for the Steamship Authority in Woods Hole. — Cameron Machell

Falmouth residents failed to prove that a new Steamship Authority ferry terminal, already under construction in Woods Hole, would adversely affect navigation, according to a preliminary decision by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The 52-page decision issued Monday, March 27, is under review by DEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg, who will issue his decision within the next 30 days, Edmund Coletta, a spokesman for the state agency, said. Once Mr. Suuberg’s decision is issued, there is a 7-day window to seek reconsideration. The final decision can also be appealed to superior court within 30 days, Mr. Coletta said.

Work on construction of a new ferry terminal is underway in Woods Hole, but it’s work on the ferry slips that was objected to by Falmouth residents. A foundation is poured and a mound of dirt greets passengers coming to and from the terminal parking lot.

Jane A. Rothchild issued Monday’s ruling after holding a Jan. 27 evidentiary hearing. The original permit was issued Sept. 1.

What was under consideration is the waterways license granted by state environmental officials. The 13 residents who appealed that decision raised concerns that the reconfiguration of the ferry slips “would substantially interfere with other water-borne traffic in the area,” according to the ruling.

The petitioners failed to demonstrate that mitigation was required to avoid interfering with boat traffic from Eel Pond, the ruling states.

Steamship officials had testified that the changes to the terminal won’t increase the number of ferry trips. “The size of the site’s vehicle staging area acts as a practical constraint on handling more traffic at the Terminal Site,” the decision states.