Chatham Officials Meet With Interior Secretary

By: Tim Wood

The Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge.  FILE PHOTO

CHATHAM – In their continuing effort to lobby the federal government to drop its claim over the waters and flats west of the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, town officials Monday scored their most influential meeting yet. Late in the afternoon they were scheduled to meet with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.

Selectman Shareen Davis, Health and Natural Resources Director Robert Duncanson and Town Manager Jill Goldsmith traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with Zinke to try to convince him that the town and state and should retain jurisdiction over some 4,000 acres west of the refuge. They expected to be joined by the Washington Chief of Staff for Gov. Charles Baker and Jeff Pike, the town's lobbyist on the Monomoy issue.

According to Goldsmith, the group also expected to meet with the staff of House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop, whose committee is reviewing legislation filed by Rep. William Keating that sets the Monomoy boundary at low water. They also expected to meet with Senators Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren or their staffs to discuss the issue.

In its comprehensive conservation plan for the Monomoy Refuge, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asserted jurisdiction over the waters and submerged land west of the island, out to an administrative boundary in Nantucket Sound set when the refuge was established in 1944. While the agency has stated that it would not impede traditional fishing and shellfishing within that area, local and state officials fear that could change at any time. The town and state have been stewards of the area for centuries, officials say, calling the move a land grab by the federal government.

Through Keating's legislation, town and state officials hope to roll the western boundary of the federal refuge back to the low water mark. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy has also threatened to sue the federal government over the issue.

Officials are also seeking to resolve the matter through administrative channels. They current administration in Washington is more friendly to states' rights, they reason, and they hope to convince Zinke to reverse the language in the comprehensive conservation plan through an administrative order.

Read more here tomorrow.

Oct. 16, 8:05 p.m.