Chatham To Drop Controversial Dredging Plan

By: Tim Wood

Chart showing dredging area that will be withdrawn from the town's comprehensive dredging permit.


CHATHAM – The town will drop a controversial plan to dredge a section of Chatham Harbor near the North Inlet that prompted a lawsuit and appeal to the state department of environmental protection.

In a press release Friday, town officials said because of evolving shoaling conditions in that area, the limited amount of dredging being sought would be ineffective in providing a suitable navigational channel. Rather than continue devote time and resources to litigate a permit that would no longer accommodate the dredging needs of boaters, fishermen, and emergency responders, officials decided to withdraw that section of the comprehensive dredging permit.

In an Aug. 30 letter to the conservation commission, Coastal Resources Director Ted Keon requests that the section of the permit related to the North Inlet dredging be withdrawn; the commission will address the request at its Sept. 4 meeting.

The town will instead begin work on developing a more comprehensive dredging application to cover a larger area of Chatham Harbor in anticipation of expanded dredging needs in the future.

The North Inlet dredging comprised just a small area of a larger comprehensive dredging permit for areas of the harbor and Pleasant Bay that the town filed with environmental regulators last year. Minister's Point property owner Gerald Milden objected to the North Inlet dredging, claiming it would increase erosion on his shorefront property. Milden appealed the conservation commission's approval to the state department of environmental protection. The commission's approval was upheld, but Milden filed a further appeal with the DEP office of dispute resolution. He also filed a lawsuit in Barnstable Superior Court appealing the permit under the town's local wetlands bylaw.

Due to the delays in issuing the permit and the constantly changing conditions in the harbor, selectmen authorized the staff to pursue a more comprehensive dredging plan for a larger area in anticipation of continued shoaling, according to Friday's press release.

“The board considers it imperative to closely monitor changing conditions, plan for and devote the town's resources to those endeavors which will best serve the interests of the maritime community, and secure public safety,” according to the statement. “Accordingly, the board accepted the recommendation of staff that a reassessment of the scope of the dredging plan for Chatham Harbor is warranted at this time.”

Because of ongoing changes to the barrier beach and harbor inlets, officials said they anticipate that a larger area of the harbor will require dredging in the future, so a more comprehensive application will be developed to address dredging and sand disposal options. Surveys of eelgrass and sediment sampling for the expanded area have already begun.

This is a developing story and will be update as more information becomes available.