CHATHAM — The conservation commission voted unanimously Wednesday to issue emergency certification for dredging near the North Inlet to Chatham Harbor.
The vote came after a hearing that was contentious at times. Minister’s Point property owner Gerald Milden told the commission that dredging in the harbor is responsible for erosion of his land and other properties. After Milden made a series of heated comments, Conservation Commission Chairman Michael Tompsett declared him out of order. When Milden declined to step down, Tompsett recessed the meeting for 10 minutes.
The town still needs to obtain additional permits before the dredging can proceed, and the board of selectmen has scheduled a special meeting for Aug. 15 to discuss the matter.
With the harbor inlet opposite the lighthouse becoming too shallow for large boats to use, most mariners have begun using the North Cut to access the Atlantic from Pleasant Bay and Chatham Harbor. Fishermen and other mariners have complained that the passage leading to the inlet is dangerously narrow, and the harbormaster and Coast Guard agreed that the situation is dangerous.
In issuing its emergency certification, the conservation commission acknowledged the public safety risk.
Natural Resources Director Robert Duncanson said that, if the dredging goes forward, it may only provide a short-term fix. The dynamic movement of sand in the area could choke off the passageway again, but Duncanson said that issue is irrelevant to the commission when considering its emergency permit.
Check this week’s Cape Cod Chronicle for a more detailed story.