Protection for Pond Shorelines


Amid a proliferation of applications for permanent piers, a new
district of critical planning concern (DCPC) has now been proposed for
the shorelines of two shellfish-rich ponds in the town of Chilmark.

Last week the Martha's Vineyard Commission voted to nominate
the Menemsha and Nashaquitsa Ponds as a DCPC on the Chilmark side.

"Shellfishing, commercially or just for family use is a valued
way of life that depends on these ponds remaining relatively uncluttered
and the bottom healthy," the nomination says in part.

The nomination was made by the Chilmark planning board and the town
conservation commission.

The boundaries of the proposed DCPC include a 200-foot zone from
mean high water out, all around Nashaquitsa Pond on the Chilmark side of
Menemsha Pond. The proposed DCPC excludes Menemsha basin and the
Aquinnah side of Menemsha Pond.

The central purpose of the special planning district is to develop
regulations for piers to protect the shellfish and finfish habitats.

"The conservation commission received three applications for
new fixed piers in September, and we realized that if this is a trend
that we were going to need some help," said Pamela Goff, the
acting chairman of the Chilmark conservation commission, this week.

Menemsha Pond and Nashaquitsa Pond are the two primary resources for
bay scallops up-Island.

Mrs. Goff said the town planning board and conservation commission
agreed that a DCPC might be the best tool to use for developing pier
regulations. "We both think it's a good idea - our
master plan names shellfishing as a high priority as a non-tourist based
industry - and we've put a lot of money into developing the
resource," she said.

The state Division of Marine Fisheries has opposed the use of piers
in shellfish and finfish-rich ponds, because piers and boating activity
can affect the health of eelgrass beds, which are an important component
of the pond ecosystem.

Late last year DMF director Paul Diodati outlined this concern in a
letter to the Department of Environmental Protection over a proposed
pier project in Nashaquitsa Pond. "Nashaquitsa Pond is classified
by the Division as significant juvenile finfish and shellfish habitat .
. . . Eelgrass provides important cover and forage habitat for the
juveniles of many finfish species and bay scallops. It is still our
concern that pier construction and increased boating activity will
ultimately result in the permanent loss of habitat . . . ." Mr.
Diodati wrote.

"There is a genuine debate about whether docks harm the
habitat, and I'm sure we'll have some of that in the weeks
ahead," Mrs. Goff said.

The DCPC nomination triggers an automatic moratorium on new
structures within the boundaries of the proposed district. A public
hearing is now set for June 7, when the commission will consider whether
to designate the DCPC. If the district is designated, the yearlong ban
on structures will remain in effect while regulations are developed. Any
new regulations must be approved by voters at a town meeting. The
nomination also states that if the town of Aquinnah decides later to
join the proposed DCPC, the town of Chilmark will welcome the

The vote by the commission to nominate the district last week was
15-1. Voting in favor of the nomination were: James Athearn, Christina
Brown, John Best, Marcia Cini, Michael Donaroma, Dan Flynn, Tristan
Israel, Megan Ottens-Sargent, Ken Rusczyk, Linda Sibley, Richard Toole,
Jim Vercruysse, Kate Warner, Andrew Woodruff and Robert Zeltzer. Voting
against the nomination was Jennie Greene, an appointed member of the
commission from Chilmark.

This marks the third DCPC nomination by the commission in the last
several months. Early this year the commission voted to designate a long
stretch of the North Shore as a DCPC. Also sparked by concern about pier
applications, the North Shore DCPC spans the three towns of Tisbury,
West Tisbury and Aquinnah. Two weeks ago the commission voted to
nominate the entire island of Chappaquiddick as a DCPC.