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2018 Articles

The Barnstable Patriot
By Bronwen Howells Walsh
Posted Nov 29, 2018 at 5:20 PM

Health Board halts move to lift sewering cap

[Photo By: Bronwen Howells Walsh]

Town Manager Mark Ells has said it before, and he’ll say it again: Barnstable is one of the state’s most complex and environmentally sensitive communities. “We stand on top of the water we drink,” Ells told a packed Barnstable Board of Health meeting on Nov. 27. “Public water supply and water resource protection are a priority. Resource protection is a key part of everything that we do.” In a 45-minute presentation that opened the three-hour hearing, Ells said his administration is trying to balance housing demand, drive economic development, and maintain resource protection while expanding the the Highway Business District along Route 28 in Centerville and Hyannis. The zoning changes were introduced earlier this month by James Crocker Jr., council vice president and chairman of the town’s Zoning and Permitting Regulatory Committee. “We don’t have blinders on,” Ells said. “We need to look at this balance, we need to understand this balance. It isn’t just sewering. As town manager, l will not be successful unless I look at every single option.”

Residents weighed in on a proposal to modify the town’s Saltwater Estuary Protection Zone, an interim regulation that’s been in place for a decade. The modification was introduced as part of the Route 28 highway business district expansion. Ultimately, the health board put the debate on hold until January.

Chairman Paul Canniff opened Tuesday’s hearing by quoting his predecessor, Wayne Miller, candidly stating that Barnstable’s watersheds and estuaries are nitrogen-impaired. Lifting the interim regulation, Miller said, would result in septic systems that far exceed the maximum nitrogen flow.

“Nutrient load is introduced primarily by us – urine,” Ells explained. “That’s really what we’re looking to manage here. It’s all about balance.”

Ells advocated easing the estuary protection regulations along a 500-foot buffer of Route 28. He said doing so would encourage redevelopment of the aging commercial corridor and, perhaps, allow housing construction at the former Marstons Mills Elementary School.

“On the nontraditional side, we’ve been doing a lot” to implement alternative water treatment technologies, Ells said.

Alternative water treatment efforts are a long-term project, noted health board member Tom Lee, who recommended against relaxing the interim regulations before examining water quality data at each watershed.

“We cannot just say ’500 feet’ across the board,” Lee said. “That’s my opinion as an engineer.”

Health board member Don Guadagnoli concurred with Lee, saying that the interim regulations should be modified slowly and thoughtfully, and affordable housing should be considered on a case-by-case-basis.

Marcel Poyant, owner of Centerville Shopping Center on Route 28, urged the board to provide commercial developers with some type of regulatory relief; otherwise, redevelopment efforts along the aging commercial corridor are “dead in the water.”

It’s difficult enough to keep commercial property occupied, echoed Cliff Carroll, a mortgage banker and real estate developer and Housing Assistance Corp. board member. “The need for affordable housing here has exploded. We really do need to address that. If we study, study, study, study, we’re going to be here 10 years from now having this conversation.”

Zenas Crocker, executive director of Barnstable Clean Water Coalition, said BCWA and its predecessor, Three Bays, have been studying the region’s water quality for more the 20 years and continues to do so.

“We’re working very, very hard, hand in hand, with the town to bring these alternatives to bear,” Crocker said. “We don’t know exactly where and how the changes are going to help. Dilution alone is not going to solve the long-term problem. We think we can do that over time. Let’s not rush to lift something like this. It does protect us.”

Councilors Jessica Rapp Grassetti and Britt Beedenbender also testified against lifting the saltwater estuary regulations and called for a review process, water quality monitoring, and benchmarks for moving forward.

“This is a short-signted attempt to address a problem with the wrong solution,” Beedenbender said. “Lifting of this regulation would have far-reaching, negative effects. The health of our waters directly affects the health of the community.”

Likewise, Lindsey Counsell, who chairs Barnstable Preservation Committee, urged continual water quality monitoring.

“You really need to get into the parcel level to be able to prove you’re making a difference,” Counsell said. “Help the town implement a monitoring you can then begin to chart the progress,” he urged the board of health.

Don Keeran, assistant director of the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, said his organization and BCWA share the same mantra: No net increase in nitrogen load.

“That’s our mantra, and we hope that’s the philosophy of the board of health going forward here. It’s not just a town issue. It does have those ramifications beyond town borders” for shared estuaries in Mashpee, Sandwich, and Yarmouth as well.

“We would caution and urge the board to be very careful of any potential modifications of the regulation,” Keeran said. “Any lifting of the ban we would be opposed to and we would urge the board of health to not go that route.”

The public hearing is scheduled to continue on Tuesday, Jan. 22. The health board’s next regularly scheduled meeting is on Tuesday, Dec. 18.

The Barnstable Patriot - Health Board halts move to lift sewering cap

Cape Cod Times
By Geoff Spillane
Posted Nov 27, 2018 at 8:52 PM

Barnstable Health Board delays action to modify water-quality regs

HYANNIS — The Barnstable Board of Health will not rescind the decade-old interim development regulations established to restrict nitrogen flow into the town’s estuaries — at least not this year.

The board voted unanimously on Tuesday afternoon to continue its public hearing on the matter — which has generated major community interest in recent weeks — until Jan. 22.

A standing room-only crowd of nearly 150 people attended the late-afternoon meeting at Barnstable Town Hall, during which the board heard public comments for more than two hours.

“This is more (people) than we’ve had in the last five years combined,” said Barnstable Board of Health Chairman Dr. Paul Canniff, who added he had received more than 40 letters and emails in advance of the meeting.

When it reconvenes after the New Year, the board could narrow its discussion to possibly modifying regulations for small areas of the Interim Saltwater Estuary Protection Zone, which encompasses most of the town south of Route 6, as opposed to a wholesale retraction. The regulations, adopted in 2009, were intended to be temporary and only in effect until the town adopted and implemented a comprehensive plan to address nitrogen reduction required in its estuary systems.

The Craigville Beach Zoning District, which is under the jurisdiction of the Cape Cod Commission, would not be included in any amendment to modify the zone.

Town Manager Mark Ells opened the meeting with a 45-minute presentation, explaining that it was never his intent to call for a full recision of the regulations.

Ells stressed that the town has implemented many water resources management initiatives during the past 10 years — including sewer expansion, acquisition of open space, dredging and establishment of water management improvement funds — but the town needs to balance those efforts with housing development and economic growth.

“I hear over and over again that we are not doing anything and that’s not accurate,” he said. “The challenge is balance. We are trying to protect the (town’s) quality of life and unique character, but need to have economic growth and housing for all.”

He specifically advocated for easing the interim estuary protection regulations for a 500-foot buffer along Route 28 through town to allow for housing development opportunities, including the site of the former Marstons Mills Elementary School.

“This wasn’t brought forth correctly,” said Ells about the proposed amendment to lift the regulations.

Board member Dr. Donald Guadagnoli suggested getting rid of the interim regulations “would not be a good idea at this point” but carefully modifying them on a case-by-case basis could be appropriate.

Environmental groups, including the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition and the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, oppose the proposed amendment.

Zenas Crocker, executive director of the coalition, and Don Keeran, assistant director of the association, both told the board they were adamant about having no net increases of nitrogen in the town’s waterways.

“What’s the rush?” said Crocker about the proposed amendment, suggesting any modifications should move forward in a thoughtful and transparent manner. “It’s a blunt instrument, but it does protect us.”

Town Councilors Jessica Rapp Grassetti and Britt Beedenbender both addressed the board, expressing concern that the town was considering lifting the regulations without having a long-term integrated plan that takes into consideration growth in the next 10 years.

“I don’t want to lift it at all,” said Rapp Grassetti. “I’d rather saddle my children and grandchildren with debt to fix the problem, rather than dirty water.”

She also offered to work with the Board of Health to contribute to finalizing a comprehensive water quality management plan, complete with implementation and financial strategies.

Perhaps the most memorable testimony at the meeting came from Marcel Poyant, owner of the Centerville Shopping Center. Poyant was recently unable to replace a 35-year barbershop tenant with another barber because the shop is located within the estuary protection overlay district.

“Give us some type of relief,” he said. “We’re dead in the water when it has anything to do with septic systems.”

Cape Cod Times - Barnstable Health Board delays action to modify water-quality regs

The Barnstable Patriot
By Bronwen Howells Walsh
Posted Nov 22, 2018 at 9:17 AM

‘The Cape is not a one-size-fits-all approach to planning’

In a joint public hearing Nov. 15, the Barnstable Town Council and Planning Board voted unanimously to ask the Cape Cod Commission to raise the square footage on developments of regional impact.

Translation: The town, rather than the Commission, would be in charge of regulating large developments within newly designated “Chapter H” areas along Route 132 and in Independence Park.

Elizabeth Jenkins, Barnstable Planning and Development director, said increasing the DRI thresholds would provide greater regulatory flexibility to businesses.

“We’re generally putting a regulatory framework in place that supports investment and reinvestment,” Jenkins said. “This promotes the kind of sustainable growth and investment that we want to see here in Barnstable. It shows our businesses that we are committed to economic development.”

The application would increase the DRI thresholds from 10,000 square feet for commercial/industrial land uses to 20,000 square feet in economic centers, like Route 132, and to 40,000 square feet in industrial service and trade areas, like Independence Park.

Beyond that, “any increase in gross square footage would trigger Cape Cod Commission review,” Jenkins said.

The revised regulations also are designed to guide growth away from protected resources, like the Cape’s ponds, bays, and estuaries.

Felicia Penn of Hyannis noted that the increase in industrial service and trade area threshold appeared to include land adjacent to the airport rotary – an area the planning board has made a concerted effort to keep undeveloped because of its proximity to Barnstable Municipal Airport.

Jenkins noted that the town purchased the former Chili’s site, which is restricted and cannot be developed.

“This designation will not have any significant influence on this property,” Jenkins said. “Route 132 is a gateway into our community and Cape Cod. Traffic and overall visual character are still reviewed by the Cape Cod Commission.”

The Chapter H application will next be reviewed by the Commission and, ultimately, presented to the Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates for final approval.

Regional Policy Plan

Kristy Senatori, executive director of the Cape Cod Commission, briefed the council on the next iteration of the Commission’s Regional Policy Plan (RPP), which is updated every five years. Once the final draft of the RPP is approved by the Assembly of Delegates, it will serve to align regional and local planning efforts over the next five to 10 years.

The RPP is designed to balance the Cape’s natural, built, and community environments, Senatori said. New this year: The plan includes performance measures designed to closely monitor new growth and redevelopment.

“The RPP and the Chapter H application reinforce each other,” she said.

Much of the public feedback received to date on the RPP draft has focused on addressing climate change, Senatori said. In addition, commenters said the Commission should pay close attention to the Cape’s sub-regional differences.

“The Cape is not a one-size-fits-all approach to planning and regulation,” she said. “I think that’s absolutely key to this plan.”

Highway Business District

The council and planning board also opened a public hearing on two zoning amendments that would expand the Highway Business District along Route 28 in Centerville and Hyannis, and along West Main Street in Hyannis.

Those proposed zoning amendments are designed to encourage investment in Barnstable’s aging commercial corridors by easing the regulatory process. Building permits and site plan reviews would still be required, but developers no longer would have to appear before the Barnstable Zoning Board of Appeals for a special permit.

Jenkins said the highway business district as it exists today was first established in 1988, with just two permitted land uses: professional (non-medical) offices and banks without a drive-through. The rewrite proposes 28 prospective land uses; reduces minimum set-back requirements for commercial properties; and increases the maximum height to three stories.

“The zoning is not adequately serving the businesses that are located there today, nor future businesses,” Jenkins told the council. The amendments are a way to support housing growth “in a form and density that would support a year-round workforce. We do have a housing crisis here on Cape Cod.”

Eliminating special permits would increase the amount of investment in these areas, said Cliff Carroll, a mortgage banker and real estate developer who serves on the Housing Assistance Corporation board.

“It’s difficult to repurpose a building that goes vacant,” Carroll said. “Lots of commercial areas are sitting vacant. This type of zoning change is going in the right direction.”

The zoning changes are recommended by the town’s Zoning and Permitting Regulatory Committee chaired by James Crocker Jr., council vice president. Because Crocker’s own commercial properties bookend the proposed zoning expansion in Centerville, he recused himself from the proceedings.

Fred Chirigotis, a former town council president who now serves as Barnstable’s Cape Cod Commission representative, said the proposed zoning changes along Route 28 in Centerville encroach upon residential neighborhoods west of Old Stage Road.

“I agree those [commercial] properties need to be developed, but two lanes of traffic in both directions haven’t helped anybody but the lawyers,” Chirigotis said. “The number of accidents on Route 28 at Bell Tower Mall – I don’t have to tell you about that.

“What is the plan?” Chirigotis asked. “Let’s have a plan for the whole Route 28 corridor. There are different sections, whole different villages. We need to look at each section of that road and make a comprehensive plan that works.”

Susan Sweet of Hyannis said she opposes expanding the highway business district. She said her home near Lambert’s is an undeveloped parcel that’s been in her family long before West Main Street existed.

“I will never sell it. It will never be developed in my lifetime. It’s open space,” Sweet testified.

At various times in her testimony, Penn called the proposed zoning amendments “not very progressive,” “insufficient,” “totally inadequate,” and “not appropriate.”

“To put those other uses at those four corners at Strawberry Hill Road, that’s terrible planning,” she said.

Likewise, Susan Horback of Centerville asked, “Where is our wastewater planning in relation to this?” Barnstable Board of Health is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, Nov. 27, at 3 p.m. in relation to that question.

“Many of these uses seem a little too intense for the area...which is primarily residential,” Horback said. “Let’s not allow uses ‘by right’ and expand the area if they’re really going to cost us later.”

Zenas Crocker, executive director of the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition, also testified against the zoning amendments.

“This small area...seems to be a few development parcels rather than solving for the whole problem that the town is facing,” Crocker said. “Bring it to the taxpayers. They’re counting on every one of you here to solve these issues. Let’s make it better. Let’s get sustainable development.”

The council voted to approve a motion by Britt Beedenbender that abutters be notified of the potential zoning changes, “so that people are aware and can engage in this process.”

The public hearing on the matter remains open, and the town council and planning board will again meet in joint session on Thursday, Dec. 6, at Barnstable Town Hall, 7 p.m.

The Barnstable Patriot - ‘The Cape is not a one-size-fits-all approach to planning’

Cape Cod Times
By Geoff Spillane
Posted Nov 21, 2018 at 6:52 PM

Barnstable Board of Health to consider lifting nutrient restrictions

HYANNIS — The Barnstable Board of Health has a full — and controversial — post-holiday agenda when it meets on Tuesday.

The board will hold a public hearing on lifting interim regulations implemented 10 years ago to protect the town’s waterways. The regulations were put into place to restrict nitrogen flow into estuaries by limiting development in certain areas.

The regulations were intended to be temporary and only in effect until the town adopted and implemented a comprehensive plan to meet requirements to reduce nitrogen.

The proposed amendment to eliminate the regulations would affect most of the town south of Route 6, excluding the Craigville Beach Zoning District, which falls within an area regulated under a district of critical planning concern set up through the Cape Cod Commission.

The rationale behind the proposed amendment, according to a legal notice issued by the town, is that the regulations were only intended to be temporary and the town has engaged in initiatives to address nitrogen reduction in estuary systems, adhering to state Department of Environmental Protection total maximum daily load requirements.

The amendment, along with a public hearing, had initially been on the board’s Oct. 23 meeting agenda, but was withdrawn when a discrepancy emerged over whether the board had even requested — or voted — to have it placed on the agenda.

Environmental groups, including the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition and the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, oppose the proposed amendment and have submitted letters to the board and town leaders.

“The net effect of the proposed action will be to worsen existing degraded estuaries throughout the town of Barnstable as well as those shared with Mashpee, Sandwich and Yarmouth,” association Executive Director Andrew Gottlieb wrote.

If you go

WHAT: Barnstable Board of Health meets to consider changes to nutrient restrictions for large swath of town and changes to smoking regulations

WHEN: 3 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE: Barnstable Town Hall, 367 Main St., Hyannis

Gottlieb also disagrees with the reason for the amendment, contending Barnstable lacks a comprehensive plan — along with financing or public and political support — to restore the estuaries.

Barnstable Town Council Vice President James Crocker says the amendment proposal emerged from a housing study that concluded the interim saltwater estuary protection zones are hindering residential development along Route 28, where infrastructure exists for it.

“A lot of improvements have been made (since 2008),” he said. “The town has spent money for runoff solutions, purchasing property to take out of development, and capital improvements in the sewer plan to take nutrients out of the estuaries. The town is fully committed to enhancing and improving the estuaries and maintaining high quality drinking water.”

Not so fast, argues Zenas Crocker, executive director of the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition.

“BCWC understands the need for economic growth, and for more housing in the town,” he wrote. “We agree that a ‘temporary’ regulation lasting almost 10 years deserves clarification and updating. Shouldn’t there be an opportunity for open discussion and the airing of all views, new information, prospective alternatives and so forth? Perhaps that is the goal, but if it is, that too is opaque.”

A public hearing on further limitations on smoking in town is also scheduled for Tuesday’s meeting.

A proposed amendment to the town’s smoking regulations would expand the definition of products containing tobacco or nicotine to include e-cigarettes, expand the minimum age for tobacco sales to 21, and ban smoking at municipal-owned parks, playgrounds, beaches and athletic fields, and at transportation waiting areas.

Cape Cod Times - Barnstable Board of Health to consider lifting nutrient restrictions

The Barnstable Patriot
By Bronwen Howells Walsh
Posted Nov 15, 2018 at 1:28 PM

Zoning for the future: ‘We’re going to get a lot louder,’ says Barnstable Clean Water Assoc.

Barnstable Town Council was poised to vote Nov. 15 on expanding the highway business district on Route 28 in Centerville and Hyannis, and along West Main Street in Hyannis.

Drafted by Barnstable’s Zoning and Regulatory Committee, the proposed zoning amendments are designed to encourage investment in Barnstable’s aging commercial corridors, help meet housing demands, promote increased property values, and make the areas more pedestrian-friendly.

The zoning amendments would increase the types of businesses that could operate in the highway business districts, raise the maximum building height from 30 to 38 feet (or three stories), reduce commercial setback requirements, and ease the regulatory process for multi-use development in those areas.

The Zoning and Regulatory Committee chaired by Jim Crocker, vice president of the council, who owns land along Route 28; however, the proposal clearly states that the changes are unanimously supported by all committee members, including Councilors Crocker, Jessica Rapp Grassetti, Matthew Levesque, Paul Neary, and member-at-large Hank Farnham. At the full council’s Nov. 1 hearing, Crocker said he would recuse himself from the final vote.

The proposal also pledges “to protect adjacent residential land and maintain Barnstable’s unique character and exceptional quality of life.” Approval of the highway business district zoning changes requires a 2/3 majority vote of the council and planning board. Public comment was continued until Thursday, Dec. 6, at 7 p.m., and the town will notify residential abutters.

Meanwhile, Barnstable Clean Water Association (BCWA) is now monitoring for marine invasive species at seven locations in Barnstable. The cover of the organization’s fall newsletter shows a close-up of angry-orange algae growing in Barnstable Harbor.

BCWA said two new Hyannis Harbor sites also contain numerous invasive species not seen at other sites until this year. The most commonly observed species at all seven sites were the Star Tunicate (Botryllus schlosseri) and the Sheath Tunicate (Botrylloides violaceus). Both tunicates were found growing on docks, lines, buoys and boat hulls.

At the same time, BCWA’s quarterly data demonstrates decreasing dissolved oxygen levels – an indicator of declining water quality – in Prince Cove, likely caused by high levels of nitrogen.

“We’re going to get a lot louder,” Zenas Crocker said in a Nov. 12 interview, his office working through Veterans Day.

“I’m not against sustainable development or sewering, but the untested tools are the missing link,” Crocker said. “Mill Pond would be Barnstable’s first pond restoration. Stormwater treatment, wetlands restoration, dredging – these are all basically ideas that have not been tried on any scale.”

Crocker said he planned to testify at the Nov. 15 joint hearing, as well as the next Barnstable Board of Health meeting. Scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 27, the health board meeting will consider a proposal to modify the town’s regulations protecting salt water estuaries, a change Zee Crocker said is tantamount to sanctioning unmitigated development.

“We (BCWA) cannot support this,” Crocker said. “Any proposed change should be part of our comprehensive water management plan—when implemented, not just planned. We need to have sensible, sustainable development, but why lift the (salt water estuary) regulations for the entire town?”

Visit for updates on both hearings.

The Barnstable Patriot - Zoning for the future: ‘We’re going to get a lot louder,’ says Barnstable Clean Water Assoc.

Cape Cod Times
By Beth Treffeisen
Posted Nov 5, 2018 at 7:32 PM

Dredging of entrance to Cotuit Bay begins

COTUIT — Dredging of the Cotuit Bay entrance channel and the western tip of Sampson’s Island will begin this week.

This phase of the project will widen the channel by about 130 feet, and the dredged material will be used for beach nourishment on the southern side of the eastern end of the island —Dead Neck Beach — and for a habitat enhancement area, according to a statement from the Barnstable Department of Public Works.

The department will conduct the dredging in collaboration with Barnstable Clean Water Coalition, the Massachusetts Audubon Society and Barnstable County.

Depending on weather, dredging operations will be ongoing from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays until Jan. 15, the projected completion date of this phase of the project.

Boaters are asked to use caution while navigating the waters around the dredging operation.

Cape Cod Times - Dredging of entrance to Cotuit Bay begins

The Barnstable Patriot
Posted Oct 29, 2018 at 2:00 AM

APCC invests $1.2M in Three Bays stormwater management

[Photo by: Alan Belanich]

The Association to Preserve Cape Cod (APCC) is partnering with the town of Barnstable Department of Public Works (DPW), the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition, the Horsley Witten Group and the Barnstable Land Trust on a five-year local, state and federally funded project to improve water quality in the Three Bays watershed through better stormwater management.

This multi-phase project got under way in 2016 with a $472,574 grant from the U.S. EPA’s Southeast New England Program (SNEP). That initial effort has now expanded to a $1.2 million project, including $119,002 awarded to the town from two Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management Coastal Pollutant Remediation grants; an additional $350,000 in federal funding awarded to APCC from the SNEP Watershed Grants program managed through Restore America’s Estuaries; and a combined $301,045 of in-kind labor and contributions from the project partners.

“This new funding will support Phase II of this project effectively doubling the scope and impact of this successful collaboration,” said April Wobst, APCC Restoration Coordination Center and Three Bays stormwater project manager, in an Oct. 23 statement.

The Three Bays watershed, like many coastal estuaries on Cape Cod, continues to suffer from the impacts of nutrient and bacteria contamination. High levels of nitrogen result in algal blooms and fish kills and bacteria contamination from pet and wildlife waste causes regular shellfish and beach closures. Stormwater runoff and fertilizers are two important contributors to this problem.

Dan Santos, Barnstable DPW director, said the DPW has been taking a multi-faceted approach to addressing water quality concerns across the town.

“Stormwater management is one piece of the puzzle and a key strategy for the Three Bays watershed,” Santos said. “The town has committed significant resources to this effort, including over $120,000 in-kind contributions for this project alone.”

The team completed a watershed assessment in early 2017 to identify sites where installation of green infrastructure stormwater systems could help address the problem. These low-impact designs, which incorporate the use of plants and soil, work to capture rain water and remove nitrogen, bacteria and other pollutants before they wash into the bays.

Treatment of runoff at these priority locations will help address poor water quality in the bays, benefitting the environment and the local economy, including fishing and shellfishing as well as property values.

The project is currently preparing to begin construction on two new stormwater treatment systems: the first to be located at Cordwood Landing; the second, adjacent to Prince Cove marina.

Horsley Witten Group, the stormwater engineering firm, has worked with the project team to complete assessment, design and permitting, and will be managing construction in collaboration with the town. The green infrastructure stormwater treatment systems installed will eliminate 70-85 percent of bacteria and 55 percent of nitrogen from runoff at these sites. In addition, the systems will reduce impervious surface, remove invasive plant species, and provide improved public access.

With the additional funding, the watershed assessment will be expanded. Design, permitting and construction of additional treatment systems is anticipated for completion by 2021.

The long-term goal is to improve water quality in the bays supporting ecological restoration, as well as commercial and recreational uses. Success will be measured by reduction in pollutants (nitrogen and bacteria in particular), algal blooms, fish kills, beach and shellfish closures as well as improvement to habitat for fish, shellfish and other wildlife.

For more information, contact April Wobst at APCC at 508-619-3185 ext. 6 or Dale Saad at DPW at 508-790-6400.

The Barnstable Patriot - APCC invests $1.2M in Three Bays stormwater management

The Barnstable Patriot
By Bronwen Howells Walsh
Posted Oct 29, 2018 at 1:29 PM

Developing a roadmap: Barnstable, EPA officials fast-track nitrogen removal efforts

A who’s who of local, regional, and national environmental officials dedicated to restoring clean water on Cape Cod met Oct. 29 in Woods Hole about how to speed up the region’s groundwater nitrogen removal efforts.

The “problem formulation workshop” is spearheaded jointly by Zenas Crocker, executive director of Barnstable Clean Water Association (BCWA), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Transitional Science Program, which helps local stakeholders combat nitrogen problems.

Crocker said the Cape Cod Commission’s 208 Plan is tantamount to a test plan, and the missing links are untested tools. The workshop represents an opportunity to develop a research roadmap, ensuring that sustainable, alternative treatments are implemented along with traditional “pipes and pumps” sewering.

“BCWC understands the need for economic growth, and for more housing in the town,” Crocker recently wrote Eric Steinhilber, president of Barnstable Town Council. “Shouldn’t there be an opportunity for open discussion and the airing of all views, new information, (and) prospective alternatives?”

On Oct. 23, Crocker testified against a proposal that Steinhilber introduced to the Barnstable Board of Health. The proposal call for repealing the town’s interim Saltwater Estuary Regulations to allow more development along the Route 28 corridor in Centerville.

Crocker maintains that any proposed regulatory changes should be part of Barnstable’s Comprehensive Water Management Plan.

“We need to be diligent and vigilant,” Crocker said in an Oct. 26 interview. “We need to have sensible, sustainable development.”

Attending the Oct. 29 workshop are members of EPA Region 1, WHOI, MBL, Mass DEP, Cape Cod Commission, Martha’s Vineyard Commission, the Nature Conservancy, and UMass. Florida, whose water conditions on the Gulf Coast parallel those of the Cape, sent a contingency from the state’s Bureau of Environmental Health and Division of Disease Control and Protection. Barnstable participants include Mark Ells, town manager; Dan Santos and Rob Stein, DPW director and assistant director; Thomas Mckean, health director, and Tom Lee, board of health.

Crocker said he envisioned the group splitting into teams and deploying site-specific, pilot programs – including wetland restoration, storm water management, shellfish aquaculture, and other alternative treatments – in conjunction with municipal improvements to Barnstsable’s 100-year-old sewer system.

On areas like golf courses, Crocker said, “fertigation wells” could be used to recapture nitrogen-enriched groundwater and re-apply it for irrigation and fertilization. In other cases, “permeable reactive barriers” would create underground filtration walls to treat contaminated groundwater as it flows through.

“These are all basically ideas that have not been tried on any scale,” Crocker said. For instance, “Mill Pond would be Barnstable’s first pond restoration.”

Three Bays – which encompasses embayments, rivers, ponds, and lakes in Cotuit, Marstons Mills, Osterville, and Sandwich – is the third worst-polluted of the Cape’s 53 watersheds, according to the Cape Cod Commission. Due to its geological features and prohibitive costs, sewering is not an option for the watershed; rather, alternative treatments hold promise.

The Centerville River system also exceeds its critical threshold for nitrogen, resulting in impaired water quality. Septic systems account for 87 percent of excess nitrogen; fertilizer, 6 percent, and stormwater runoff, 7 percent.

The Town of Barnstable and the Cape Cod Commission are working together to develop plans for reducing nitrogen loading to estuaries using these and other non-traditional technologies. More about the results of today’s workshop in the Patriot’s Nov. 2 print edition.

The Barnstable Patriot - Developing a roadmap: Barnstable, EPA officials fast-track nitrogen removal efforts

The Barnstable Patriot
By Bronwen Howells Walsh
Posted Oct 25, 2018 at 5:37 PM

Barnstable Board of Health, Town Council leadership at odds over sewering, development

Irresponsible, premature, ill-advised, and inappropriate.

Those were some of the fiery reactions to a proposal to limit sewer capacity in town at the expense of interim regulations designed to protect the town’s saltwater estuaries.

“This request did not come from the Board of Health,” Chairman Paul Canniff said at the Barnstable Board of Health’s Oct. 23 meeting.

Rather, Canniff said he received a terse call from Town Council President Eric Steinhilber directing him to call a public hearing. Specifically, Canniff said he was told to “effectively remove nitrogen loading regulations” apart from the Craigville Beach Zoning District.

Having seen a legal notice about the hearing, the Association to Preserve Cape Cod wrote to Canniff requesting that the health board take no further action.

Adopted in 2008, the interim regulations prohibit the construction of individual sewage disposal systems within Barnstable’s watersheds that have excessive nitrogen levels. Steinhilber asked the health board to modify the regulation by limiting its applicability to the Craigville Beach Zoning District.

“APCC strongly recommends shelving this (amendment) until a comprehensive wastewater management plan can be adopted,” Canniff said. “The main purpose of this regulation is protection of our groundwater, which provides us with our drinking water. To get rid of regulations that protect the groundwater is ill-advised. The removal would allow a lot more development.”

Councilor Jessica Rapp-Grassetti called the proposal premature and wholly inappropriate.

“Nothing appropriate has been implemented to reduce nitrogen,” she said. “The reality is very little has been implemented, and I urge the board to stay on the regulation. We should talk a lot less about this issue and do a lot more.”

But board member John Norman and James Crocker, the vice president of town council, disagreed.

“This interim regulation has handcuffed a lot of (new development) that we wanted to do,” Norman said. “The town manager (Mark Ells) has made it clear: there are things we need to do going forward that this regulation is hindering.”

Moreover, the quality of drinking water throughout town is above-standard, Norman added.

“I fail to see the public health issue that’s being affected by our regulating sewering systems,” he said. “The Town of Barnstable has $16 million in the bank as a funding mechanism (for new sewering). It’s on the town leadership, not the board of health.

“When you hinder a community to building one- and two-bedroom housing, our children can’t afford to live here on the Cape,” he added. “It’s time to sunset and move forward.”

Councilor Crocker concurred with Norman, saying, that everyone present has the same goal: protecting Barnstable’s water supply.

“The issue is how to move forward,” Crocker said. “What I hope we’re here to discuss today is who should take the lead. The lead, I believe, belongs with the council, town manager, and staff. Who’s funding the testing? The council is.”

However, Zenas Crocker, executive director of Barnstable Clean Water Coalition, said a temporary regulation lasting over 10 years deserved more discussion.

“Eric called the regulations ‘somewhat arbitrary, blanket restrictions. They unnecessarily hinder other necessary priorities, such as housing,’ ” Zenas Crocker said, reading into the record correspondence between him and Steinhilber. “We (BCWA) cannot support this. Any proposed change should be part of our comprehensive water management plan—when implemented, not just planned. Our goal is to remove nitrogen and restore drinking water to the high quality that the community demands and expects.”

Board of Health Member Tom Lee noted that alternate technologies proposed to treat wastewater in Barnstable remain in pilot testing mode, but that this was a good place to start the conversations about moving forward over the next three to five years.

At the recommendation of Barnstable Town Attorney Ruth Weil, the health board voted unanimously to withdraw the proposal from consideration without prejudice. The matter will be put on the agenda for the health board’s next meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 27, at 3 p.m.

The Barnstable Patriot - Barnstable Board of Health, Town Council leadership at odds over sewering, development

The Barnstable Patriot
Posted Oct 19, 2018 at 12:18 PM


MA Nature Conservancy,
Barnstable win funding

The Nature Conservancy’s Massachusetts chapter has been awarded funding from NatureVest’s 2018 Conservation Investment Accelerator Competition promoting environmental sustainability.

NatureVest is the conservation investing unit of The Nature Conservancy. Applications were received from 26 countries and covered sectors as varied as forestry, freshwater management, and coastal resilience.

The funding will support a feasibility study for piloting innovative, nature-based solutions for wastewater management across the Cape. In partnership with Barnstable Clean Water Coalition and the Town of Barnstable, the pilot aims to reverse chronic nitrogen pollution impacting Cape Cod’s coastal ecosystems and protect the vital Cape Cod Aquifer.

The Barnstable team also will work to facilitate private investment in these more innovative solutions—and increase the pace and scale of implementation.

“As a team, we’re exploring options to implement nature-based solutions that will help mitigate nutrient pollution in our waters,” reads a statement from Horsley Witten Group environmental consultants. “This pilot study will focus on the Three Bays Watershed. Some of the potential solutions include cranberry bog restoration, fertigation wells, stormwater treatment, aquaculture...and innovative wastewater treatment systems.”

BCWA wary of relaxing rules

The Barnstable Board of Health is scheduled to consider repealing and replacing interim saltwater estuary rules governing onsite sewage disposal in the Craigville Beach Zoning District on Tuesday, Oct. 23, at 3 p.m. in the Barnstable Town Hall second-floor hearing room.

“Why do we want to relax rules now?” Zenas Crocker, executive director of the Barnstable Clean Water Association, asked in an Oct. 17 interview. “I’m all for sensible development, but the estuaries are getting worse. I’m not for changing regulations before we’ve done anything. I don’t see how I can possibly support it.”

To review the current regulation, visit

The Barnstable Patriot - Barnstable Town Notes

Cape Cod Times
By Barbara Clark / Contributing writer
Posted Oct 17, 2018 at 3:00 AM

Brew, oysters take center stage at Cape Cod Beer’s fest

[Photo Credit: Merrily Cassidy/Cape Cod Times]

The oysters are coming to Hyannis on Saturday, and the beer crafted with oysters from all over the Cape will be there as well.

Cape Cod Beer is re-releasing its Shucker’s Reward Oyster Stout as part of the first “Shuck! A Day of Oysters & Beer, ” taking place from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday at Cape Cod Beer, 1336 Phinney’s Lane in Hyannis.

The new event celebrates local industries and entrepreneurs with an afternoon of entertainment, food and drink, and a dash of education besides.

The festivities promise a tasty selection of Cape Cod oysters and locally brewed beer, plus live music from the band 57 Heavy and opener Chris Parkin, all musicians boasting local roots.

Amanda Kaiser, marketing manager at Cape Cod Beer, touts the local nature of the event: “We wanted to highlight the oysters that come from all across Cape Cod,” she says. The oyster farms Big Rock Oyster and Cape Cod Oyster will operate raw bars throughout the afternoon, shucking and serving a variety of the world-famous bivalves that originate in our local waters.”

Eight varieties of oysters will be served, all grown in the Cape towns of Dennis, Yarmouth, Brewster, Orleans, Barnstable and Falmouth. Kaiser emphasizes that the shellfish vary considerably in texture and flavor depending on exactly where they’re raised. It’s due, she says, to the salinity of the water, geography of a particular growing site and the type of water flow in any particular area.

The inaugural “Shuck!” event will give oyster fans an opportunity to savor the many subtle flavors. She says variations in taste are “part of what inspired the idea (to showcase) oysters that come from different towns, all during one event.”

In addition to oysters, the Barnstable Association for Recreational Shellfishing will serve clam chowder. Foods trucks will sell fare for those who are not seafood eaters.

If you go

What: Shuck! A Day of Oysters & Beer

When: 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20

Where: Cape Cod Beer, 1336 Phinney’s Lane, Hyannis

Tickets: $5 (admission only) to $45 ($40 in advance) for VIP entry package. Tickets and details:

Shuck! is being held a week after the Wellfleet Oysterfest, which draws about 20,000 visitors during its three-day run each October. Organized by the nonprofit S.P.A.T. (Shellfish Promotion and Tasting, Inc.), the lower Cape event began as an educational harvest festival and grew to include entertainment, a 5K race, restaurant samplings, shucking contests and more.

Kaiser says Shuck! is a chance to build awareness of the diversity of oysters grown in waters around the mid- and Upper Cape, extending to Falmouth.

Along with several other varieties of its own custom brews, Cape Cod Beer plans to re-release its Shucker’s Reward Oyster Stout. Kaiser explains that some of the stout’s flavor is due to more than 20 pounds of locally-sourced whole oysters, which are encased in a mesh bag and added to the water during the boil phase of the brewing process. The calcium in the shells, she says, alters the pH of the water the beer is brewed in, adding to the stout’s character and flavor.

Equally important, according to organizers, is the event’s educational component. Cape Cod Community Media Center and Barnstable Channel 18 have created several short videos, titled “Movers & Shuckers,” that will be shown on continuous loop throughout the day, helping illustrate the importance of the oyster to the region’s economy and ecology.

The footage captures the Cape’s lush natural marine surroundings and the farming process, zeroing in on the people who work the shellfish grants and run the Aquacultural Research Corporation hatchery in Dennis. It describes the outsize economic impact this industry has on the peninsula, generating overall industry-related revenues that in 2017 were worth $30 million to the Cape Cod economy, according to Melissa Sanderson, chief operating officer of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, on the video.

These numbers emphasize how oyster cultivation is a boon to the Cape’s economy – to shellfishermen and farmers, scientists, wholesalers and restaurants, and how it enhances tourism and local consumer purchases.

Oysters, says Kaiser, add to health and happiness in other ways, too. An event exhibit created by the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition will show how the oyster population helps maintain water quality by consuming nitrogen and phosphorous that can pose a danger to marine ecosystems. Kaiser says “a single oyster can filter 50 gallons of ocean water a day,” helping keep the waters clean. The calcium that helps make up the oyster shells also helps neutralize the ocean’s acidity.

Cape Cod Times - Brew, oysters take center stage at Cape Cod Beer’s fest

The Barnstable Patriot
By Bronwen Howells Walsh
Posted Sep 13, 2018 at 8:30 AM

Barnstable moves ahead with Cotuit Cut dredging

[Photo By: Bronwen Howells Walsh]

On Sept. 6, Barnstable Town Council unanimously approved a $1 million capital appropriation to fund dredging Cotuit Bay Entrance Channel.

Barnstable Town Manager Mark Ells announced that the town was also awarded a $1 million MassWorks grant toward the project, which is designed to open up the channel and allow more natural flushing of nutrients.

“The only communities who got these (state) grants were communities that were ready to go,” Ells said. He added that the funding request and state grant came together is less than two months.

The 2018 pilot MassWorks program awards communities funding on a competitive basis, emphasizing shovel-ready projects that already have secured local, state, and federal permits. The program also requires a 50:50 match commitment from municipalities receiving the funding.

Dredging Cotuit Cut is scheduled to get underway Monday, Oct. 15, and continue through mid-January. The project will remove 44,000 cubic yards of sediment and coastal dune from the Cotuit Bay channel, increasing its width by 50 percent.

Another $2 million is earmarked for dredging the western end of Sampson’s Island, with disposal occurring on the eastern end of Dead Neck Island, in an amended version of H4868. The Economic Development Bond Bill was approved by the State Legislature and signed by Gov. Charlie Baker Aug. 21, but that next phase of funding has not yet been released.

Ells praised the Cape Cod legislative delegation for prioritizing coastal resiliency. He thanked Barnstable Clean Water Association (BCWA) for matching the project’s permitting costs, and he credited Dan Santos, director of the Barnstable Public Works Department, for devising a long-term, town-wide dredging schedule.

At the council’s Aug. 9 meeting, Ells and Santos presented that long-term dredging plan for 31 channels in the town, which is facing about a 10-year backlog.

Of the 31 dredging projects on the town’s wait list, 17 sites are considered as routine maintenance. Dredging the rest gets increasingly complicated due to fine-grain and silty sediments and water quality issues, like the excessive nutrient load in the Three Bays area.

“We’re looking to move about 40,000 cubic yards (of sediment) annually at an average cost of $1.5 million,” Ells said.

Councilor Jessica Rapp Grassetti, who represents Cotuit and Precinct 7, commended Ells and Santos for securing the state grant to dredge Cotuit Cut, a project she described as both important and political.

“Dredging will do wonders to flush the bay,” said Rapp Grassetti. “It’s a three-year permit, whose ownership is being transferred to the town. It should not be allowed to languish. We should not have to rely on private organizations to do it.”

In the 1960s, Rapp Grassetti said, the channel was a very long opening that provided “turnover water” to flush the bays.

“It became more and more dangerous as sands shifted east to west,” she said. “Sampson’s Island public beach often would need to be closed due to the extremely strong current, which also caused a couple of drownings. It’s been so long (since the channel’s been dredged) that the geography has changed.”

In the mid-1990s, several area residents worked to keep Dead Neck Island intact and save the land sitting behind that barrier island. They formed a private organization and raised more than $1.5 million to nourish the island’s barrier beach, owned by the Massachusetts Audubon Society.

According to BCWA, almost 300,000 cubic yards of sand has been deposited upon Dead Neck Island in the past 13 years to build the island back up and create critical habitat for endangered coastal shore birds.

“Among the many benefits of this restoration project, water quality in Cotuit Bay is expected to improve by three to seven percent,” Rapp Grassetti said.

The Barnstable Patriot - Barnstable moves ahead with Cotuit Cut dredging

The Barnstable Patriot
Posted Jul 31, 2018 at 1:28 PM

50,000 oysters to grow in Hyannis tank

The Massachusetts Oyster Project and Barnstable Clean Water Coalition (BCWC) have partnered on a project to raise 50,000 oysters in a tank located at Gateway Marina in Hyannis.

Water from Hyannis Harbor will be pumped into a tank (known as an upweller), circulated through silos containing the oysters, and released back into the harbor.

In all, 50,000 oyster seed -- called spat (measuring approximately 1-5 millimeters in length) -- were placed in the Hyannis upweller July 27.

“BCWC is excited to partner with Mass Oyster to educate the public on the many benefits oysters provide to our coastal environments and to restore native oyster populations to Barnstable waters,” said Zenas Crocker, executive director of BCWC.

Oysters make a significant contribution to removing nitrogen, the main culprit for declining water quality on Cape Cod, according to Crocker.

Mass Oyster and BCWC aim to further their knowledge of oysters’ impacts on water quality by collecting samples and data from this system and surrounding waters.

They will utilize the publicly accessible and highly visible site to educate visitors and the public on the social, economic, and environmental benefits provided by oysters.

In the fall, Mass Oyster and BCWC will work alongside the Town of Barnstable to relocate the oysters to appropriate sites where they can continue to filter the water and enhance habitat until they become harvestable size.

According to the BCWC, an upweller is a large box through which seawater continually gets pumped. Inside the box are buckets with spat. The water gets pumped from the harbor on one side, rises through the oysters in the buckets, enters a trough, and flows out of the box. By having water continuously flowing over the seeds, the spat are provided with a constant food source.

The BCWC also pointed out the many benefits of oysters. First and foremost, a single oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day. The process removes nutrients -- nitrogen and phosphorous -- as well as sediments from the water column. Additionally, they serve as a buffer against ocean acidification. Oysters shells will dissolve in water over time and release calcium carbonate, thereby helping to balance the pH of the ocean.

Oysters were donated from Muscongus Bay Aquaculture.

BCWC will be giving weekly public presentations on the tank.

Visit or for more information.

The Barnstable Patriot - 50,000 oysters to grow in Hyannis tank

The Barnstable Patriot
By Marina Davalos
Jul 6, 2018

Watershed update presents problems while offering hope

[Photo Credit: BCWC]

[Photo Credit: Board Member of BCWC]

[Photo Credit: BCWC]

On June 29 Osterville native Zenas “Zee” Crocker told an audience of about 175 of his shock -- upon moving home three years ago -- of seeing algae blooms in the water.

“I always thought that algae was microscopic, but this is a type of algae,” said Crocker, executive director of Barnstable Clean Water Coalition, displaying a slide of ulva, a type of non-naturally occurring “sea lettuce” growing at Prince Cove in Marstons Mills.

The reason for these algae blooms, he explained, is an excess of nitrogen discharge from septic systems into the water.

“Too much nitrogen from septic systems over-fertilizes,” Crocker said. “It pollutes the water and creates algae blooms that kill off sea life.”

The open house presentation, titled “An Update on Our Waters and Watersheds,” took place at the Wianno Club. The forum also featured Barnstable Town Manager Mark Ells and Chris Kilian, vice president of strategic litigation at Conservation Law Foundation.

“You’re going to hear some things tonight that may scare you a little,” Barnstable Clean Water Coalition President Michael Egan said by way of introduction. “But it’s designed to do that.”

The presentation focused on Three Bays, one of the Cape’s 53 watersheds, which encompasses embayments, rivers, ponds, and lakes in Marstons Mills, Osterville, Cotuit, and Sandwich.

According to the Cape Cod Commission, Three Bays is the third worst-polluted watershed on the Cape.

“The good news is, there’s a lot of interest in this watershed,” said Crocker. “It’s a living laboratory.”

Sewering is not an option for the watershed, due to its geological features and prohibitive cost (it would cost at least a billion dollars), but there are alternatives. That’s where the Cape Cod Commission’s 208 Plan comes in as a watershed-based approach to restoring embayment water quality on Cape Cod.

“The 208 Plan isn’t necessarily a plan, but it’s more like a menu,” Crocker said. Some of the “menu options” include dredging; wetland restoration; storm water management such as rain gardens; and aquaculture, such as oysters, which filter the water and reduce nitrogen.

The 208 Plan also proposes an alternative to a conventional Title 5 systems.

A NitROE tank is a supplement to an existing Title 5 in which an aeration chamber and a wood chip chamber are installed. The wood chips are a carbon source and filter waste for significant total nitrogen reduction.

“These systems are being tested at the Joint Base in Sandwich and on Martha’s Vineyard, and have demonstrated nitrogen removal rates of as much as 95 percent,” Crocker said.

According to Ells, water quality on Cape Cod is indeed a very complex issue.

“It’s all about quality of life and maintaining our unique character. At the center of that is water,” he said.

Ells mentioned some of the projects that have taken place, including dredging in East Bay.

“Did it solve the problem? No. Did it make a difference? Yes,” said Ells, adding that he’s optimistic for the future.

Kilian, whose organization led the cleanup of Boston Harbor in the 1980s, echoed both Crocker and Ells.

“Here on the Cape, there’s such a broad understanding of how fundamental water is,” Kilian said. “In the 1980s, this is the same talk that was happening around Boston Harbor.”

Kilian said the criteria for passing or failing Title 5 systems, set by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, have not met the requirements of the law.

“When it comes to nitrogen discharge into the waters of the Commonwealth, there should be no system that should have been passed,” he said. “It’s a long dialogue that needs to be translated into action.”

For more information, visit

The Barnstable Patriot - Watershed update presents problems while offering hope

NOAA Fisheries
Apr 20, 2018

River Herring are Running in Local Rivers

River herring gets over a fish ladder at Mill Pond in Marstons Mills on Cape Cod.
River herring gets over a fish ladder at Mill Pond in Marstons Mills on Cape Cod.

It’s that time of year. River herring are returning to local rivers and streams to spawn. For Northeast Fisheries Science Center researcher Ruth Haas-Castro, counts began April 1 at Mill Pond in Marstons Mills on Cape Cod and will continue while the river herring are running in April and May, sometimes into June. Water temperature needs to be about 52 degrees F for the river herring to move, which means the night-time temperatures have to remain above freezing.

Haas-Castro, who studies Atlantic salmon and other river-run fish species, volunteers for a ten-minute time slot at Mill Pond when she has a chance, joining a community count run by the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition and the Town of Barnstable. The coalition runs the Mill Pond count and the town manages a count at Middle Pond just up the road.

“I’ve been participating in the count since 2011. It helps me keep a finger on the pulse of river herring,” Haas-Castro said of her volunteer efforts. “Plus it's really close to my house so it is easy for me to do, and its related to my work.”

There are twelve slots each day for the Mill Pond count, with nine required for a good count. Most are filled by retirees and other interested citizens. The weather has been cool and Haas-Castro hadn’t seen any fish until Saturday, April 14, when she counted 7 river herring during her 10-minute slot.

Haas-Castro has recruited several other NEFSC staff to join the effort, and noted that similar river herring counts are going on all over the Cape and up and down the Atlantic coast.

World Fish Migration Day is celebrated on April 21, but events are planned through May.

NOAA Fisheries - River Herring are Running in Local Rivers

The Barnstable Patriot
By Bronwen Howells Walsh
Posted Feb 8, 2018 at 10:15 AM

Landscaping with native plants can help clean Cape waters

[Photo Credit: BCWC]

Part two in a three-part series.

The Barnstable Clean Water Coalition is taking proven nitrogen mitigation technologies out of the lab and into Marstons Mills Watershed.

“By implementing several technologies in the same watershed, we aim to study the cumulative impacts of the overall strategy,” BCWC Executive Director Zenas Crocker said Feb. 1. “This ‘living laboratory’ will take science out of the lab and test it under real world conditions.”

While the BCWC also supports and advocates traditional, municipal treatment, Crocker said, “we see a number of relatively low-cost alternatives as a way to begin mitigating nitrogen as soon as they’re implemented.”

Aquaculture, dredging, and wetlands restoration will positively impact the water within years, instead of decades, Crocker maintains.

Likewise Jack Ahern, a professor at UMass-Amherst, and 10 of his graduate students are exploring alternative water treatments in a new book, “Three Bays Watershed: Landscape-Based Solutions to Improve Water Quality,” published in partnership with BCWC.

Winner of the 2003 Fábos medal for his international leadership in landscape and greenway planning, Ahern advocates using “Cape-friendly landscapes” that focus on native plants.

Native plants limit the need for fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation, which helps minimize nitrate concentrations in freshwater wells, ponds, and lakes as well as ocean bays and estuaries, Ahern said.

“I connected with Zee (Crocker) because I am a homeowner in Osterville and concerned about trends in landscape design all over Cape Cod, including in Barnstable,” Ahern said.

Ahern said he wonders why there are relatively few outstanding native plant landscape designs in Three Bays, considering the waters are so compromised with high nitrogen levels.

Landscape for new development and redevelopment “tend to go in the conventional way,” he said, “which incrementally erodes why – consciously or unconsciously – you come to the Cape in the first place: it’s a distinct landscape. The unique landscape of the Cape is being incrementally transformed.”

Going forward, Ahern said, he would like to develop working partnerships with people willing to illustrate the concept.

“I’m talking about landscapes that have been developed by people building houses and office buildings,” said Ahern, adding that his research team is seeking partners and demo landscapes that “walk the walk in a public way.”

“The aesthetics matter,” he said before adding: “The way to convince people is not to lecture about what’s wrong. It’s also (about what’s) beautiful.”

Particularly memorable examples of doing it right, he said, include WHOI’s Quissett campus in Woods Hole; the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s world headquarters in Yarmouth Port; and West Tisbury Free Public Library on Martha’s Vineyard.

Ahern recommends featuring native plants like bayberry, beach plum, and inkberry shrubs; meadow grasses like Little Bluestem and Seaside Goldenrod; and unmowed grasses like New England Aster, flowering Baptisia, and Rudbeckia.

For detailed “how-to” information and a link to downloadable rain garden app, visit For a rain garden plant list, go to or For ways to help protect local waters, see and

The Barnstable Patriot - Landscaping with native plants can help clean Cape waters

The Barnstable Patriot
By Bronwen Howells Walsh
Posted Jan 25, 2018 at 10:11 AM

New book seeks to help Three Bays Watershed

[Photo Credit: BCWC]

Part one in a three-part series.

University of Massachusetts-Amherst Professor Jack Ahern and 10 graduate students -- with financial support from the Barnstable Clean Water Coalition -- have published a collection of site-specific landscape architecture pilot projects that are custom-designed to help clean up Mill Pond and Three Bays Watershed.

Ahern’s graduate “studio” looked holistically at a study area within the watershed, centering on the Marstons Mills River -- the primary tributary of Three Bays. Providing landscape solutions for improving water quality is their goal. Their work culminated in the 67-page report published in limited edition last month and is the basis of a forthcoming book by Ahern, who owns a home in Osterville.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Town of Barnstable, and the Association to Preserve Cape Cod have been collaborating for years on coastal watershed restoration in Three Bays, which is seen as one of the most compromised sites on Cape Cod. In 2016, a summer algal bloom caused fish kills and put the commercial oyster industry within Three Bays at risk.

According to Ahern and his students, the 12,000-acre watershed is 92 percent developed, with 7,000 residential parcels that fall within the towns of Barnstable, Sandwich, and Mashpee. Only 21 percent of the watershed is protected open space. Consequently, the water quality of the Three Bays is seriously impaired, routinely exceeding water quality standards for nitrogen.

Leading causes of pollution include septic system leaching (77 percent), stormwater discharge (13 percent), and fertilizer runoff (10 percent), the study says. Because almost 80 percent of the nitrates in the watershed are released from domestic uses, the study concludes, “landscape-based solutions to water quality degradation need to be collaborative and community-driven.”

The study says Cape Cod’s unique landscape features -- specifically, its sole-source aquifer and sandy soils -- also contribute to the severity of the region’s water quality concerns, exacerbating the high levels of nitrogen and bacteria in the water.

“Existing nitrogen levels are much higher in the upper areas of the Bays, especially North Bay, Prince Cove, and the mouth of the Marstons Mills River,” reads the report.

Hence, a proposed Herring Run Loop restoration and another pilot program that suggest reuse of dredged Mill Pond muck are both designed as “a conceptual toolkit.” The goals are increasing community stewardship, building upon the town’s vision for a boardwalk along Mill Pond, restoring the herring habitat, and -- ultimately -- re-introducing recreational boating and fishing.

Once thought to average 6- to 12-feet deep, Mill Pond is now as shallow as six inches in some places due to many years of erosion and sediment buildup, preventing it from being a functional aquatic ecosystem, the report concludes.

Immediately adjacent to the pond, a 14-acre parcel of land recently purchased by the Town of Barnstable from the Archibald family could be used as a staging area for dredging and dewatering the sediment in Mill Pond. In fact, Barnstable Town Council on Jan. 18 voted to approve a transfer order of $250,000 toward the pond’s dredging.

Although groundwater moves very slowly, says BCWA Executive Director Zenas Crocker, help is on the way for Three Bays -- provided that residents are willing to change their behavior

“The bigger picture is going to be social change,” Crocker said in a Jan. 12 interview at coalition headquarters in Osterville. “How do we motivate people to make these changes?"

Current attitudes towards lawn maintenance contribute to compromised water quality by way of lawn fertilizer and septic leeching, the report also concludes.

“Do something now,” said the usually mild-mannered Crocker, shifting gears from fact-finding to activism as he enters his second year as the coalition’s executive director. “For instance, an effective way to reduce nitrogen is to put an irrigation well next to your septic system.”

Equally important to the Cape’s water restoration, Crocker said, is using native coastal plants like bayberry, beach plum, and inkberry -- along with marsh, meadow and unmowed grasses -- to re-grade the topography, especially along Mill Pond and the Marstons Mills River corridor.

“Native flora has evolved with other species in the ecosystem and plays a critical role in supporting habitat for other species,” reads the report. In addition, native flora does not require extra watering or chemicals to thrive.

Landscape architecture grad students who authored the Three Bays Watershed Studio Report include: Andrew Capelluti, Allison Gramolini, Maggie Kraus, Sara Lawler, Mimi Lo, Kate O’Connor, Doug Serrill, Alysha Thompson, and Diance Tian. Contributors also include Horsley Witten Group, Barnstable Land Trust, and the Cape Cod Commission.

Upcoming articles in this series will focus on Ahern, who is vice provost of International Programs and professor of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning at UMass/Amherst, and an emerging partnership with the Nature Conservancy.

Three Bays Watershed by the numbers

12,458 acres
7,093 parcels
92 percent developed residential lots
(approximately 1.6 acres per parcel)
Contributing towns: Barnstable,
Sandwich and Mashpee
54 freshwater ponds
Major freshwater streams:
Marstons Mills River & Little River
Source: Three-Bays Watershed: Landscape-Based Solutions to Improve Water Quality

The Barnstable Patriot - New book seeks to help Three Bays Watershed


Barnstable Clean Water Coalition