Tisbury focusing on Lake Tashmoo cleanup

A public discussion about a Lake Tashmoo anchorage moratorium is planned for March 8. 

Lake Tashmoo - The MV Times

Updated, February 21

Tisbury is assessing the state of Lake Tashmoo, which could mean a moratorium on anchoring in the popular boating and beach destination. 

On Wednesday, Feb. 15, the Tisbury Select Board unanimously approved using up to $40,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for a targeted watershed management proposal for Lake Tashmoo. 

Tisbury town administrator John Grande said it is focused on wastewater, including consideration of alternative systems, stormwater drainage, and vessel discharge. “This is all in an attempt to position the town to access significant funds this coming June, so that’s why there’s this sense of urgency to get this proposal funded,” Grande said. 

The town administrator added that a second batch of ARPA funds totaling around $204,000 is available to the town, which is where the study funding would come from. The study will be conducted by the Tisbury water resources committee. 

During a Wednesday, Feb. 8, board meeting, Grande proposed potentially engaging Horsley Witten for a watershed project, the same firm that is working on the Tisbury master plan. Besides the water resources committee, other government bodies like the board of health would be included in the discussions. Grande said he might be able to write up a proposal by Feb. 25, but an “initial consideration” was whether some activity at Lake Tashmoo could be suspended until a plan was set. 

“Lake Tashmoo hasn’t degraded to the level Lagoon Pond has,” Grande said. “We talk and we talk and we talk. We’ve been talking my whole tenure here. I know there are a lot of people doing things independently and incrementally. It’s time to bring those people together and put it into a management plan and take some deliberate actions.” 

Grande suggested an anchoring moratorium as a part of the effort to protect the lake, with a potential public discussion on Wednesday, March 8. Tisbury water resources committee chair Ben Robinson said a draft scope, which was worked on with water resources consultant Scott Horsley, had been sent to Grande. Additionally, Cape towns like Wellfleet have done similar studies. 

Meeting attendee Lynne Fraker, who has pushed back on the idea that anchors are part of Lake Tashmoo’s water quality issues, said that she was unsure how a Wellfleet-style study fits into Tisbury, pointing out it was expensive and time-consuming. The Wellfleet study is anticipated to take more than 20 years. She also wanted to ask why the Lagoon was not included in the plan when shellfishing was a part of the issue, adding there is “acidic mud” in Lake Tashmoo. “I think there’s a lot of different pieces here that should be public, and there should be other people involved, other than just the water resources committee,” Fraker said. 

“You’re making a lot of assumptions, Lynne, which I find incorrect, and you continually spin those types of misinformation,” Grande cut in, saying the water resources committee will be working with other stakeholders, and that Lagoon Pond is a separate issue.

A back-and-forth forced select board chair Roy Cutrer to intervene and call for the meeting to be kept “civil.” 

Meeting attendee Mac Schilcher also supported the project, but listed concerns that need to be tackled at Lake Tashmoo. He said that included more than 40 pipes that drain stormwater and wastewater into the back of Lake Tashmoo, the acidic mud, heavy metals, and nitrogen buildup, among others. Although there is talk about water management systems, he hopes consideration will be given to what is going into the water, especially with the school construction happening in town. 

“To make the case for a lot of federal funds, show how bad it is, because it is quite alarming,” Schilcher said. “I don’t swim in there … we’re talking about quality of life issues. It’s gross in there. You can see the oil shine after a rain. I don’t let my dog swim in there.”

The only part of Lake Tashmoo Schilcher said she would swim or boat in is near the mouth. However, Schilcher was also unsure what anchoring had to do with the study. 

Michael Loberg, a member of the Tisbury water resources committee and board of health, said there is a lot of excitement around studying Lake Tashmoo, and promised transparency. 

“With the advanced systems, and with the sewer that we have in the watershed area of Lake Tashmoo, we have more than enough denitrification tools. What we don’t have enough is the funds to assist people in their installation, and this is a chance to trailblaze that thing with someone who’s already done it for Wellfleet,” he said, referring to the state revolving fund as a potential source of funding. Grande said a proposal would be needed by June for the state revolving fund consideration. 

Loberg agreed that Lake Tashmoo can’t handle the amount of effluent getting in currently, although the lake’s overall health is improving, as is the eelgrass. 

The town is also considering using ARPA funding for grant-writing services.