Posted on November 10, 2020
Falmouth resident Lisa Cavanaugh went before the waterways committee on Wednesday, November 4, to ask that it take action to stop ongoing encroachment of Washburn Island into the entrance of Eel Pond, Menauhant.
“Washburn is continuing to push westbound, toward the Menauhant shoreline,” Ms. Cavanaugh said. “The channel is getting more dangerous with the currents there. It has gotten pretty bad this year, where now it looks like the channel is trying to take a new route, almost directly into the Menauhant shoreline.”
Having previously discussed the matter with the waterways committee in December, Ms. Cavanaugh said the area near Washburn Island remains dangerous for boaters.
“It is really rough there,” she said. “I have seen many boaters lose control of their boats because the current gets so strong. If you don’t know the waters in the area, it is really dangerous.”
Noting the town dredged the area recently, she said the dredging was not effective.
“Even where you dredged last year, it is almost filled in right now,” Ms. Cavanaugh said. “I think the sooner we can get a study down, figure out what is going on, and remediate, the better the whole area will be.”
Noting the committee was aware of the issue, chairman Jeffrey Thomas said a study could cost approximately $60,000. In addition, Eel Pond is on the committee’s dredging priority list.
Committee member Michael Kinney said that with the location just north of the Menauhant Yacht Club, the area falls just outside of the town’s dredging discussions.
“This is something that is separate, as we have talked about the past five years, the encroaching of Washburn’s point,” Mr. Kinney said. “It is more a dynamic of that area than a dredging priority, so it seems to me this needs to be addressed separately from what we do to dredge.”
Ms. Cavanaugh asked if Washburn Island could be treated like Sampson Island in Osterville, where a portion of its encroaching tip was removed to extend the width of the channel there.
“It is very similar to that project, and I can tell you, I talked to the county dredge people on that project,” Harbormaster Gregg Fraser said. “They just finished up phase three, and have every intention of having to come back next year, because a lot of what they did last year had filled right back in again. If I had to guess, that is going to turn from a three-year project to an annual project, because that sand is going to go right back to where it wants to go and not stay where the study said it would stay.”
At this point, he said, he would not advocate for dredging the area.
“From my vantage point, I would see no reason to dredge that again until something is done with that inlet, otherwise we’re just throwing money away,” Mr. Fraser said.
While a study could help reveal what to do, Ms. Cavanaugh said waiting another year for a study felt like a long time, and that funding the study will also be a challenge. Mr. Fraser said the town’s capital budget was halved this year.
“I do think there are going to be some lean years coming at us, for a while, because of local receipts and everything else that is dropping, so I wouldn’t expect new capital projects would be viewed favorable at this point, because they are just going to be reducing, not adding,” he said.
However, if there is an opportunity to fund a study via a state grant he would pursue it, he said.
“I’m always looking for grant opportunities,” Mr. Fraser said. “If something comes along that this might fit, the town will be happy to apply for a grant. We’d just have to find something a study like this would be suitable for.”
While it would be a new capital project, it is not a new problem. Because it is a known issue, Mr. Fraser said, the Falmouth Conservation Commission likely wouldn’t grant an emergency permit for a construction project or an armament in the area without a full filing.
“Certainly, they are going to say this didn’t happen overnight, it has been happening for a while, and therefore doesn’t fit the ConCom’s definition of an emergency,” he said. “Even if the ConCom were to go along with it, that doesn’t mean the state or the [US] Army Corps [of Engineers] would allow any such work anyway.”
He will also contact the coastal resiliency action and water quality management committees to get additional input on Washburn Island’s encroachment.