Orleans, Eastham to meet again on inlet dredge
ORLEANS, MASSACHUTES -- Orleans officials still hope Eastham will see the light, as they see it, and permit dredging behind the northern tip of the Nauset barrier beach, enabling ships to once again sail unfettered into the Atlantic.
With that hope in their hearts the selectmen are proceeding with a greatly reduced dredging plan for Nauset Harbor/inlet that would remove only 8,500 cubic yards of sand, not the 140,000 that would be removed if the silted-in back channel were cleared out.
The reduced dredging would clear muck from the mouth of Town Cove back to Priscilla Landing. One advantage is that the area is entirely, but just barely, outside the boundaries of the Cape Cod National Seashore so there is no requirement for the Seashore to weigh in.
The sand taken out would be fine grained and not usable for beach nourishment, as much of the 140,000 cubic yards would’ve been. Because of that there is no need to dewater the sediments just north of the Nauset Beach parking lot, as had been planned.
Woods Hole Group consultant Leslie Fields recommended the selectmen consider alternate sites, such as near the Goose Hummock Shop or Priscilla’s Landing.
Orleans would pay the cost of this project on its own, instead of sharing the cost with Eastham, and it would still have to conduct a pilot study to prove red tide cysts don’t survive the dewatering process. If Orleans can get a waiver on the Environmental Impact review, the town won’t need a Cape Cod Commission review.
The dredging would create a 50-foot channel from the Town Cove to Priscilla’s Landing.
The Woods Hole Group would conduct field surveys on shellfish and fish habitat, do sediment cores and chemical analysis, conduct the red tide study, work with the National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Wildlife Service, do historic analysis and conduct contractor meetings, handle permitting and manage the work at am estimated cost of $194,260. The county dredge would do the actual dredging.
There are still quite a few permits needed from the Massachusetts Environmental Protection Agency, the conservation commissions in Orleans and Eastham, Water Quality Certification from the Division of Environmental Protection as well as a Chapter 91 permit, a review by the office of Coastal Zone Management and a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers. That is all expected to take 18 months.
“It would trim six months or so off the (permitting) process,” Fields said of the scaled down plan, as it lacks the federal and Cape Cod Commission reviews.
“If we did this in what way would we benefit?” wondered Selectman Meff Runyon.
“It would improve navigation in the area we’re dredging,” Fields said.
“The issue is this doesn’t get us to the ocean,” Selectman Mark Mathison said. “So why bother? When we started looking at the project a lot of people were concerned or frightened by the scope and size, so we’ve scaled it back a bit. But if we don’t permit the channel on the west side of the estuary we really don’t gain anything.”
“It sounds like a bifurcated process,” Selectman Kevin Galligan said. “We could permit the backside of the beach as a separate process.”
However, after hearing from their consultants from the Center for Coastal Studies earlier this spring, Eastham’s selectmen worried the dredging could accelerate the erosion of Nauset Beach.
“We were not supporting it behind the barrier beach,” Eastham Selectman Aimee Eckman told the Orleans board.
“Any dredge channel would be done on the westernmost side of the channel closer to the marsh,” Mathison explained.
“We weren’t ready to commit to that,” Eckman replied. “What’s behind the barrier beach can change at any moment it’s so dynamic. If you dredge too close to the marsh you create more wave action there that could damage the marsh. At high tide you can get through (the inlet). Low tide is the problem. Nothing says it has to be a 24/7 channel.”
“High tide only is not an option when you’re dealing with the commercial fishery or boating safety,” Mathison replied.
He asked if Eastham would oppose permitting for the channel dredging, not the actual work there?
Eckman suggested the boards hold a joint meeting to discuss it. Orleans Town Administrator John Kelly suggested the town’s consultants should meet first. A tentative date for the two boards to meet was set for June 24, in Eastham at the Library.