The Cape and Islands Harbor Masterís Association has released a new report and strategic plan for the years ahead. The five-page report calls for better communication among the various supporting organizations and an effort to improve the services on the waterfront during a time when the U.S. Coast Guard appears to be pulling back its services.
The association also wants funds from the state to help cover the rising costs of management as use of the waterfront increases. Harbor masters seek to improve the professional services being provided to Cape and Island waterfront communities.
The document was released at the fifth annual Cape and Islands Harbor Masterís Association meeting, held at the Black Dog Tavern in Vineyard Haven more than a week ago. More than 40 harbor masters and their spouses attended.
"The role of harbor master has become a lot more professional than it was," said Vineyard Haven harbor master Jay Wilbur. "It is a career now, rather than somebody sitting in a rocking chair and watching the harbor."
Mr. Wilbur was the host of the association meeting. The association report was prepared by Robert L. Fultz of Robert L. Fultz and Associates. Mr. Fultz has helped Island towns plan and execute dredging projects. "The Cape and Islands Harbor Masterís Association is taking preliminary comprehensive planning steps to preserve their waterways heritage. As a result of this effort, the association is requesting the legislature to establish a new small harbors waterways fund."
The money from the fund would be used to help pay for the cost of dredging, additional services related to protecting the environment and services no longer covered by the Coast Guard. "The counties of Barnstable, Dukes, and Nantucket are now among the fastest growing counties in the state. This rural sprawl has placed great pressure on coastal infrastructure and a fragile ecology."
The report reads: "The waterways of Cape Cod and the Islands are the most active in Massachusetts. The historic and scenic harbors are home to 17,296 commercial and recreational vessels. In addition to the harbors, bays and sounds, many embayments, lagoons, and salt ponds also provide recreational and commercial opportunities and are one of the great scenic and natural treasures of the United StatesÖ The history, future and identity of the Cape and Islands are forever mingled with these waterways."
There is a major incentive for the harbor masters to put together a strategic plan, according to the report. Local communities will have better access to federal dollars for funding dredging projects if the project is part of an overall plan. "The association intends on meeting with the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management to facilitate dredging of the waterways as needed," says the report.
According to the document, the harbor masters themselves will meet in groups to prioritize issues for the future, from defining the position of the harbor master to looking for ways to equip the department. The report calls on harbor masters to meet to discuss marina expansion issues, public access and capital projects.
The association meets monthly except during the summer. Mr. Wilbur said that each year the group meets on Nantucket in the spring and on the Vineyard in the fall.