chilmark election

The Menemsha Pond system and Chilmark Pond are now eligible to participate in the Massachusetts Estuaries Project after voters approved a Proposition 2 and a half override for the project at the annual town election on Wednesday.

The vote was 192 to 56 for the Menemsha ponds, and 179 to 69 for Chilmark Pond.

Chilmark Pond house

A sharp increase in the annual town operating budget and the question, both financial and philosophical, of whether to continue participation in the Massachusetts Estuaries Project are the key issues that will come before Chilmark voters at their annual town meeting Monday night.

The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Chilmark Community Center; longtime moderator Everett Poole will preside over the 22-article warrant. The annual town election is Wednesday.

Cribbing a famous line from an infamous late U.S. president, it is public enemy number one in Southeastern Massachusetts, although this time the enemy is not drugs but nitrogen. Nitrogen poses a serious threat to the health of our coastal ponds and saltwater embayments that were once pristine and are now in alarming states of decline. Eelgrass beds are gone or disappearing, and along with them the clean shellfish that both provide a rich source of food and form a key cog in the local economy.


Chilmark selectman sharply criticized the Massachusetts Estuaries Project this week, questioning both the necessity of the project and the significance of the results, at least for their town.

fishing boat lagoon shellfish

The final Massachusetts Estuaries Project report on the health of Lagoon Pond was unveiled this week in Oak Bluffs, and the blunt diagnosis was summed up in two words: “significantly impaired.”

Dr. Brian Howes, technical director for the project, a joint venture of the state Department of Environmental Protection and the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, said that almost all of the 89 estuaries in southeastern Massachusetts are impaired. Lagoon Pond is no exception.


On Thursday morning all was right with the Lagoon Pond. The water was clear, blue-green crystal, by all appearances the very picture of estuarine health. Just a day before, the water was clouded by an unsightly yellowish-brown fog from the head to the mouth of the Lagoon. It was an explosion of prorocentrum, an algae, and the largest one that Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group director Rick Karney has ever seen.