It wasn’t exactly a summit conference, but selectmen from Chilmark and Aquinnah held a joint session on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of dredging Menemsha Pond. The two boards last met in Aquinnah roughly a year ago to discuss cell phone towers.
This time they met in Chilmark and the topic at hand was mutual concerns about the health of the pond that spans both towns.
“We want to do things that will improve water circulation and quality, but are worried about things that will improve navigation,” said Chilmark selectman and board chairman Warren Doty.
The sentiment was born earlier this fall, when a group of Chilmark fishermen spoke out strongly against dredging Menemsha Pond for navigational purposes, but said they supported dredging to improve shellfishing.
The channel leading to the pond was last dredged in the 1970s. The Coast Guard has since closed it as a navigable waterway. Mr. Doty said harbor master Dennis Jason regularly performs small dredging projects in the pond at an average cost of $24,000.
Dredging the entire pond would come at a cost of $200,000 to Chilmark, a figure the town does not have in its budget, Mr. Doty said at the meeting.
The discussion comes as both towns are in the midst of projects aimed at revitalizing shellfishing in the pond.
“I’d really hate to see anything change much. It looks like things are starting to come back,” said John Larsen, a Chilmark shellfisherman and member of the town shellfish restoration committee. “This was the third year in a row that I’ve seen an increase of scallop seed on the flats,” he added.
Aquinnah selectman and board chairman Camille Rose agreed. “Making it navigable is a big mistake,” she said. She proposed opening a dialogue between harbor masters in both towns to create uniform regulations for things such as speed limits and aquaculture grants. Menemsha harbor master Dennis Jason embraced the idea.
“I think it would be a good idea for the two towns to work on rules and see if we can enforce them,” he said.