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The Pohogonot Trust seeks permit to excavate channel from Oyster Pond in Edgartown to Atlantic Ocean

Published Sept. 5, 2017

CONCORD, Mass. –The Pohogonot Trust, of Wayland, Mass., is seeking a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District to conduct work in waters of the U.S. to excavate a channel from Oyster Pond in Edgartown, Mass., to the Atlantic Ocean. This work is proposed in Oyster Pond and the Atlantic Ocean at Oyster Watcha Road in Edgartown.


The proposed work involves excavating a channel from Oyster Pond to the Atlantic Ocean. The excavated channel is proposed to measure 6 feet to 10 feet wide and up to 200 feet long. Twenty cubic yards to 40 cubic yards would be excavated below the mean high water line (MHWL). Excavated sand would be placed adjacent to the created channel with 1,200 to 1,400 square feet of sand being placed below the high tide line (HTL). The Pond is at a higher elevation than the ocean and the applicant expects that sand will be flushed into the ocean after a channel is excavated causing the channel to widen even further. The depth of the resulting channel would be -0.5 feet to -1 feet mean low water (MLW). The applicant is requesting a permit with a 10-year term with up to 4 channel openings occurring per year due to the typical natural closing of the channel within days to a month from opening. The purpose of the work is to reduce flooding risk to properties surrounding the Pond. According to the applicant, the Pond water level periodically rises to a level that can flood residential infrastructure surrounding the Pond.


According to the applicant, Oyster Pond has been opened to the sea an average of four or five times a year since 1909 by the Pohogonot Trust and its predecessors and a hundred or more years before. The initial opening is usually in March. It is often opened again in May or June and then again in the summer or fall and as late as November or December, depending on how long it takes for the pond to fill. The timing of the opening is arranged in consultation with the Edgartown Shellfish Constable. The Corps issued a permit for excavation of this channel from the Pond to the Ocean Nov. 27, 2013 under the Massachusetts General Permits.


The applicant has provided the following proposed avoidance and minimization: 1) excavation will occur from the upland and at low tide; 2) the area and depth of channel excavation is the minimum in order to create channel opening; 3) excavation will not occur between April 1 to Aug. 31 unless conditions are met to prevent impacts to federally listed bird species that may occur in the project area; and 4) equipment will not traverse dune/beach grass habitat in the project area.


While the proposed excavation area is sand beach, the sand flushed from the created channel would flow into the Atlantic Ocean potentially impacting approximately 50,000 square feet of Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) for various species and life stages. Habitat at this site can be described as intertidal and shallow water habitat. Due to the constant shifting of sand by tides and currents in the project area as well as the expected compatibility of the sand flushed from the channel, the proposed work is not expected to result in habitat loss. The Corps has made a preliminary determination that the site-specific adverse effect will not be substantial. Further consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service regarding EFH conservation recommendations will be conducted and will be concluded prior to the final permit decision.


The application for the federal permit was filed with the Corps in compliance with Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act, which provides for federal regulation of any work in, or affecting navigable waters of the U.S.; and with Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, which regulates the discharge or fill of material in U.S. waters, including wetlands. The public notice, with more specifics on the proposed work by The Pohogonot Trust, can be viewed on the Corps website at www.nae.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory/PublicNotices.aspx.


Public comments on this work proposed by The Pohogonot Trust (file # NAE-2012-01401) should be forwarded no later than Oct. 5, 2017 to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District, Regulatory Division (ATTN: Sarah Wilkinson), 696 Virginia Road, Concord, MA 01742-2751. Additional information is available from Permit Project Manager Sarah Wilkinson at 978-318-8513 or toll free 800-343-4789 or 800-362-4367 (if calling from within Massachusetts) or by email to: sarah.a.wilkinson@usace.army.mil.

Tim Dugan

Release no. 17-097