CHATHAM – The public reaction to the consolidated waterways regulations under review for the past year was somewhat underwhelming.
A few people showed up at the waterways advisory public hearing on the 54-page document held at the community center last Thursday, but the response seemed somewhat muted compared to what officials anticipated.
Perhaps the fact that the committee had already announced that it would continue the public hearing to April 26, in response to a request from the board of selectmen for more time to review the draft regulations, contributed to the sparse turnout. The board intends to hold a workshop with waterways officials to review the proposal – which consolidates waterways, harbormaster and mooring regulations into a single document – before issuing its own comments and suggestions.
Selectmen have not yet scheduled that session, said Chairman Cory Metters.
“Hopefully soon,” he said. “I'd like to get rolling on that.”
Waterways Advisory Committee Chairman Peter Taylor made it clear the hearing was solely to take public comment, not to discuss the proposal.
“This is a draft document,” he said. “We have not finished with this document.”
Despite the paucity of the attendance, a few comments were offered on the consolidated regulations. Fisherman Jim Nash suggested that there be no charge for commercial boats hauled out at Ryder's Cove town landing and Old Mill Boatyard for the first five days, with a $25 per day fee thereafter. Under the draft, the $25 fee applies to each day a boat is hauled out for maintenance or washdown. Nash said he understood the motivation for the fee – to discourage owners from leaving boats hauled out for extended periods of time – but said the charges were driving commercial fishermen to haul out their vessels in other towns where the cost is lower.
“For the most part we can get all our stuff done in five days,” he said.
Resident Rick Leavitt said a two-year rule that allows an owner to retain a mooring without a vessel essentially allows the owner to keep the mooring “forever” even if there is no boat in the water. He also made several suggestions related to third-party use of moorings.
Residents can submit written comments on the draft regulations through the April 26 public hearing. After that, the waterways advisory committee will review the comments and determine if changes need to be made to the draft, said Natural Resources Director Dr. Robert Duncanson. A final draft will be sent to town counsel for review and then to the harbormaster for adoption. He expects the process to take about two months.
The continuation of the hearing on April 26 will be held at the community center at 5 p.m., Taylor said.