Officials Meet With Lt. Gov. Polito On Monomoy Boundary Issue

By: Tim Wood

Topics: Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge , Monomoy Refuge CCP , Board of Selectmen News

Terns on Monomoy Island

CHATHAM - Town officials traveled to the state house Monday to meet with Lt. Governor Karyn Polito in hopes of gaining support from the Baker administration for efforts to scale back the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's claims of jurisdiction over the waters west of the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge.

Officials said Polito understood their concerns and would convey the town's position to Gov. Charlie Baker.

"She got it," said Chairman of Selectmen Jeffrey Dykens. "She was a quick study, she understood the issues."

Town and state officials have called the assertion in the recently approved comprehensive conservation plan for the refuge that some 3,000 acres of open water west of the island fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service a federal overreach. While the plan leaves current management of fisheries in the area in the hands of the state and town, where it's rested for centuries, it leaves open the possibility of fin or shellfishing being shut down should the service conclude that an activity has a negative impact on the refuge.

Town officials want the western boundary of Monomoy, and thus the jurisdiction of the federal government, limited to low water, and have asked the state's federal representatives to file legislation to that effect.

Enlisting the Baker administration on the town's side could be key to a bipartisan approach to the issue, town officials say.

"Our hope is that the Baker administration will provide a strong letter to our federal legislative delegation asking them to lead our legislative effort to clarify the refuge boundary," Town Manager Jill Goldsmith said in an email Tuesday.

In a statement issued by her office Tuesday, Polito said, "The Baker-Polito Administration continues to be dedicated to working with municipalities and our federal partners to conserve the Commonwealth's natural resources, while also promoting public access and supporting our recreational and commercial fishing industries."

Monday's meeting with Polito was attended by Dykens, Goldsmith, Selectman Seth Taylor, Natural Resources Director Robert Duncanson, Assistant Secretary for Environment Daniel Sieger and Rep. Sarah Peake, D-Provincetown.

Peake said Polito is Baker's liaison to cities and towns and talks with the governor regularly on issues brought up by local officials.

"I'm comfortable having met with her because I know that she and Charlie Baker have open lines of communications, and this will get taken up by the governor," Peake said. Polito's family, Peake added, has had a second home on the Cape for years and the lieutenant governor understands the importance of Nantucket Sound and Monomoy, "not just for Chatham but for everyone in the state."

Since it's an election year, it's important to get legislation filed as soon as possible, Dykens said. Selectmen have voted to pursue that route rather than the alternative, which is to sue the federal government.

"I hope we can get this thing on track and don't have to file expensive and time consuming legislation," Dykens said. "We don't want to sue."