Pleasant Bay forum draws suggestions from public

(3/11/98 Cape Cod Times)

ORLEANS - The washashores, the old-timers, the kids who grew up, went away and later returned, the newcomers - many of them turned out last night to share their memories of Pleasant Bay. The public hearing, attended by about 50, was the final forum on the Pleasant Bay Resource Management Plan. In 1987, the bay was designated as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern, one of seven on the Cape, because of its status as a habitat for many plant and animal species, an Atlantic Ocean inlet, and as an outlet for saltwater and freshwater brooks.

The plan seeks to manage many of the human activities which are harming the resources. It has been accepted by Chatham, Harwich and Orleans - three of the four towns which border the bay, but now needs state approval. Brewster, which has the least frontage, but whose land is a major part of the watershed, has yet to participate. State officials, including Peter Webber, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Management, heard anecdotes and suggestions about how the plan should be implemented. Pleasant Bay Alliance Steering Committee chairman Dick Miller told officials the plan was really a land management plan, because the problems with the bay - water pollution, loss of habitats and depletion of fishing and shellfishing - originated on the land. Cape Cod Commission planner Heather McElroy concurred. McElroy, in fact, said the commission, which endorses the plan, recommends increasing the Area of Critical Environmental Concern to include the watershed.

Tom Leach, Harwich harbor master and shellfish constable, and a member of the alliance's technical advisory committee, remembered when 70 commercial shellfishing permits were issued for Pleasant Bay, just over 20 years ago. That industry has just about disappeared, but Leach said he was encouraged that the plan would keep open a broad area of Pleasant Bay. He said public education was critical to preserving the bay's resources and people living in the area would need to institute practices within their households to improve the water quality of the bay, such as using low phosphate detergents. Leach praised the nearby Cape Cod National Golf Course for implementing an integrated pesticide management plan. Skip Norgeot of Orleans said the bay was fished out by 1850, and the plan would be vital in helping the fisheries recover. "The whole world needs banks that the fisherman can't touch," he said. One homeowner did speak against the plan's proposed lifetime ban of docks and piers in the bay. Jim Mackenzie of Medford, who has a home on Meetinghouse Pond, said he bought the property in 1986 because he wanted to build a dock and enjoy boating. Although he did secure a permit, he changed his plans and by the time he went back to the conservation commission, the town had implemented a moratorium on new docks and piers in the bay.

Webber said he was impressed by the level of commitment from the community and the effort to build consensus. The state also announced last night that the alliance has been awarded a $10,000 grant to expand its water-quality monitoring program throughout the bay. Webber said the state will decide by March 25 whether to approve the plan. Written commentary will be accepted until March 15 to Robert Durand, Secretary of the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, 100 Cambridge St., Boston, MA 02202.

Pesticide Notes

Pesticides and Salmon. On Feb. 24, 1999, a coalition of environmental organizations, the Oregon Pesticide Education Network, released a report reviewing recent scientific literature and concluding that even minute amounts of some pesticides in waterways can disrupt the life cycle of salmon by harming immune systems, altering reproductive systems, and disrupting a juvenile salmon's ability to swim. The coalition seeks to encourage passage of legislation similar to CA's pesticide reporting program. [Portland Oregonian]