Aunt Lydia's Cove Dredged For First Time In Almost A Decade

By: Tim Wood

Topics: Commercial fishing and shellfishing

The Barnstable County dredge Codfish.  FILE PHOTO

CHATHAM – For the first time in nearly a decade, the Aunt Lydia's Cove mooring basin is being dredged to ensure commercial fishing boats have enough depth to operate at all tides.

Early this week the Barnstable County dredge Codfish was pumping sand from the bottom of the Cove some 5,000 feet to the north onto a private beach off Linnell Lane. The approximately $169,000 project is being funded by four private property owners whose beaches will benefit from the dredged sand.

The Aunt Lydia's Cove mooring basin, where many of the town's commercial fishing boats are moored, hasn't been dredged since 2008, according to Coastal Resources Director Ted Keon. It was dredged periodically prior to that, but after the 2007 break in North Beach opposite Minister's Point, previous shoaling problems were somewhat mitigated by shifting current patterns, he said.

More recently shoaling has once again encroached upon the two easternmost rows of moorings adjacent to Tern Island, where about 20 boats are moored.

“It was definitely impacting some of the deeper draft vessels,” Keon said. At low water, there were only three or four feet of water, whereas some of the larger boats in the fleet have six to seven foot drafts, he said.

The county dredge, which began its work last week, is expected to remove between 12,000 and 14,000 cubic yards of sand.

“We're trying to really go back to the original authorized depth for the mooring basin,” Keon said, explaining that environmental permits authorize an eight-foot depth in the Cove basin, with a one-foot “over depth.” Past dredging projects have carved out six to seven feet of depth, usually limited by time and opportunity.

“The sense is, now let's clean it out and put it back to where it was,” he said.

Material from the Cove will help build up a stretch of low dunes that protect a marsh off Linnell Lane. Keon said the area sometimes overwashes, and the owners are concerned that further erosion could pose a danger to the marsh. The property owners have previously trucked in sand to build up and the beach, and were “very enthusiastic” about received the and paying for the dredged sand, which is less costly than bringing in sand over land.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of next week.

Keon said he had hoped to tie this project in with dredging of shoaling near Fox Hill, at the entrance of Ryder's Cove, which has been problematic for several years now, but environmental closures and scheduling issues prevent that from happening. He's hoping that work can be done next fall or winter, with the dredge sand used to nourish Scatteree and Cotchpincut town landings, which seem to incur erosion every winter due to their northeast-facing position. The work will likely also include other shoaling in Pleasant Bay, to be determined by conditions that exist at the time.

This was the perfect time to dredge the Aunt Lydia's Cove basin, he added, since no environmental restrictions exist there and at this time of year, only a few boats are moored there.