Report of the


Natural Resources Department


As Harwich boaters and Cape Codders enjoyed one of the most delightful summers ever, our business community faced a downshift from the super-charged growth rates of the past several years. This spell seemed to impact even the luck of our tuna fishermen. Strangely, the bearish times were not reflected in the record low dockage turnover of only three berths and our harbors’ seasonal boat slips were full to capacity.


The bluefin “bite” showed up late in August, a slow start to the season and that was stalemated like so many other businesses by the infamy of September 11th. We were all stunned by the horror of terrorists crashing planes into the World Trade Center. The harbor staff shared that moment with fifty fishermen, many from New York, as we watched the television in our crammed little office and shared this gut wrenching moment of confusion and dismay as the buildings crashed to the ground.


By Sunday evening (9/16/01) a candle lit vigil was organized at Bank Street Beach to share our prayers for those souls and survivors of our nation's greatest attack. More than 400 gathered at sunset to share the moment with friends and neighbors, as towns across our USA were doing the same. A memorial wreath was blessed by the pastors of our churches and spread on the waters of Nantucket Sound from the Harbormaster vessel by fire fighters Mike Mason, Leighanne Merrigan, Donald Parker, along with Police Chief William Mason and Harbormaster Tom Leach. Our prayers are with the all the victims, fire fighters, and policemen killed in this act of war on the US. Please know we will continue to pray for you and keep you in our hearts as the days go by and hope that you will find comfort in our God as you struggle through this trying time.


Dockage Fees

The Board of Selectmen voted new dockage fees representing roughly a 8% increase across the board of all wharfage and mooring fees. The Board also took the additional step to raise electric fees 30% above that recommended by the Waterways Commission in an effort to cover massive utility rate hikes expected at the harbors over the year. The Harbormaster’s office had all bills in the mail by the last week of February. Deposits on dockage are considered past due March 15th. Lease holders should call the Harbormaster if they have not received a bill or want to send a timely security deposit. Selectmen have agreed that dockage at the popular Harwich Harbors is a privilege enjoyed by few and that taxpayers should not be carrying costly harbor projects the extent that user fees can carry expenses.  Town Meeting also agreed to the harbor accepting credit cards for the first time ever. This has made collections much easier for the Harbormaster and staff.




















Saquatucket Dockage




Visitor Dockage




Offload Permit Fee




Fuel Dock Commission




Mooring Permit Fee




Ramp Fee Collected




Allen Town Dock




Wychmere Town Pier




List Waiting Fee




Allen Harbor Boat Storage




Ice Receipts

















$ 573,158


$ 647,903














If the elbow of the Cape is the epi-center for the late bite of bluefin tuna on Cape Cod, then Saquatucket Marina is ground zero for landings. The Harbormasters Office was deluged April 1st with boaters making transient reservations for August through October. This immediately created a no vacancy period for the harbor. The Town policy is a two-week maximum and virtually all large slips were booked by an anxious fleet of sportfishermen. The Selectmen also settled an offloading permit issue with the Army Corps of Engineers requiring an across the board $500 tuna landing permit for fishermen in addition to dockage fees. However, requiring skiff fishermen landing tuna via the boat ramp to have the tuna landing permit was waived once again. Harwich sold 66 of these landing permits generating $33,000. Tuna buyers must also buy permits for all offloading vehicles. The bluefin quota and season closed October 25th.


Shellfish Propagation

Now in its eighth year, the shellfish propagation lab located at Wychmere harbor had the top growth rate among the seven such systems on Cape Cod. Nearly 2.5 million quahog seed were reared throughout the summer and grew from (1-3.0 mm) to an average of (11 mm) in size. Our largest seed grew to 25 mm. While a portion of our post-set quahog seed was purchased directly by the Town, the majority of these juvenile clams came directly from the DMF/County Seed Grant Program. Shellfish seed was also purchased from hatcheries at Muscongas Bay and Port Clyde, Maine and Aquacultural Research Corporation in Dennis.


The shellfish lab was retrofitted this year with new intake pipe lines paid for by a grant from the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension Service. The lab was also the site of our fourth high school summer aquaculture internship program. The six week program enabled students, Ally Keefe, Shannon Clouter, Brooke Falvey, and Brian Lasky under direction from Heinz Proft and teaching supervisor Mr. Robert Smeltzer to monitor and maintain the shellfish nursery during its busiest time. The lab, open to the general public, received over 500 visitors this year, some from as far away as China. Funds supporting our program came from the Barnstable County Enhancement Grant Program. The shellfish from the lab were counted, sized and seeded into Herring River, Allen Harbor, Oyster Creek, Wychmere Harbor, Saquatucket Harbor, Pleasant Bay/Muddy Creek, and Round Cove.


The local Harwich shellfishing flats were again a busy place. More permits were sold this year than in 2000. Volunteer shellfish wardens Jim Coyle, Mike Cienava, and Ron Saulnier were very generous with their time and energy augmenting shellfish patrol duties. All three wardens were appointed assistant harbormasters in September to act as wharfingers during the tuna landing. The assistance provided by our volunteer corps certainly makes the Natural Resources Department a more efficient, more productive group. 


             2001  Harwich Shellfish  Permits    


Resident Family               303           $ 3,030

Non-Resident Family         43              1,290

Commercial                          9                 360

Seniors                                93                 279

One-Day Non-Resident      52                 780

                                     ---------         ---------  

TOTAL                            500           $ 5,739


Clam prices quickly dropped back to 1980 prices due in part to a market flooded with dragged quahogs coming from a newly discovered deepwater bed in Nantucket Sound off Monomoy and leaving shellfishermen and aquaculturist scrambling for alternatives. The local fin fishermen were also feeling the pinch in an economy gone sour on its demand for luxury food after September 11th.


QPX, a disease that can wipe out entire cherrystone populations, was discovered in Pleasant Bay. Kept under wraps for some time, a story implicating the outbreak of this serious shellfish disease was circulating this spring. The disease, affecting both wild and hatchery quahog stocks, has been found in shellfish grants in Little Bay. Experts Dr. Roxanne Smolowitz, from the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, and Dr. Dale Leavit from the Southeast Massachusetts Aquaculture Center, have been called in to determine the nature and gravity of the situation. The malady occurs primarily in 1.5 - 2 year old quahogs planted in leases and it is terminal for the clams. It is not harmful to humans if ingested, however, there is no cure for the disease. The outward sign of the disease on live animals is a damaged or fragmented shell edge. Several Lower Cape shellfish farmers have already made claims for crop damage and seed. Those reared at our shellfish lab were required to be tested prior to broadcasting in local shellfish beds. A batch sample from the deepwater draggers also needed testing for QPX before we begin a relay of chowder quahogs to the family area at Wychmere and Allen harbor.


Many of our projects were completed with the assistance of our college interns Bob Cooney (CCCC)  and Deb Olstein (UMASS). Their contributions along with interest, dedication, and hard work were a valuable asset to our program. We also extend our gratitude to high school students Kristin Chin, Tommy Leach, Jamie Scarbrough and Bryan Knowles for their assistance in a new program facilitating students as environmental interns at the Natural Resources Department.


Competing interests for valuable shorefront activities often require tough decisions by those in charge with determining whether a homeowner should be allowed to extend a dock or if an area should be kept open in the interest of shellfishing and navigation. The Shellfish and Marine Water Quality Committee faced exactly that deliberation when acting on a request by Lisa Pedicini to locate a pier and float system from her property into Wychmere Harbor while it tabled a dock request from home owner Herbert Collins on Saquatucket Channel.


Herring Run Enforcement

A movement by the Board of Selectmen toward provincialism of the herring run regulations became a hotly contested subject this past spring. Herring were observed in the fish ladder from March 16th through June 4th. It appears as if the Town of Harwich and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries have yet to agree on the rules and regulations which will govern the run in the future. The town was denied injunctive relief in its battle with the state Division of Marine Fisheries over these regulatory rights. Barnstable Superior Court Judge Richard Connon issued his finding declaring there is nothing in the state statute, Chapter 130, sections one and 94, to preclude the Division of Marine Fisheries from exercising control over the Town of Harwich concerning the herring run along the Herring River.


The Natural Resources Department had volunteer herring wardens specifically designated to enforce regulations surrounding the herring run on a daily basis. We would like to thank Paul Eldredge, Michael Sekerak, Gary Stephens, and Sue Stephens for the help they provided to our staff of volunteer shellfish/herring wardens in this area. One thing is clear, if the Town insists on limiting the herring run to “residents only” through legislation, it must also be prepared to hire paid personnel for this thankless enforcement assignment.


By late this year, water levels in the ponds and rivers were very low. Nature repeated itself as low pond levels in the herring runs have trapped millions of herring fry in the upper ponds and made it very difficult for the juvenile herring trying to migrate back to Nantucket Sound. The latest precipitation numbers from the Cape Cod Commission show that from December 2000 to November 2001, Cape Cod received only 27.35 inches of precipitation, almost 15 inches below the Cape's annual average of 42 inches of precipitation. It is the lowest amount since 1989, when the Cape received 33.4 inches. This is the third year in a row with below-average precipitation, all of which means groundwater levels are low.


The Board of Selectmen expressed concern regarding the recent actions that allow foreign factory ships into New England waters. More recently, the government passed legislation prohibiting American vessels larger than 165 feet from fishing in US waters. We can only assume there were sound reasons behind these actions, yet now the New England Fishery Management Council has seen fit to build a joint venture allowing massive foreign fishing vessels to take herring and mackerel from right off our own coast. It hasn’t been long since we last saw these massive floating factories in our waters that we cannot remember the threats they posed. In the 1980’s, legislation was passed prohibiting foreign fishing vessels in US waters. With the withdrawal of Orleans resident Bill Amaru, the Cape lost its seat on the New England Fishery Management Council. The NEFMC makes the majority of decisions that spell out how the region fishes.


Water Testing

Ongoing scientific data collection continued in 2001 including our involvement with the Massachusetts Phytoplankton Monitoring Program. This program was coordinated by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and involved collecting data from 18 stations along the coast of Massachusetts including the Cape and Islands to determine the location and densities of potential toxin producing phytoplankton.


The Natural Resources Department's long term water sampling program began in late July as volunteers sampled the water in the harbors and ponds to better manage and protect their quality, beauty and aquatic life for the future.


Testing was taken to a new level this year. This past summer 40 volunteers took part in a combined saltwater and freshwater sampling program to develop a baseline of their existing conditions. Saquatucket Harbor, Wychmere Harbor, Allen Harbor, Herring River, and 11 ponds were sampled several times in order to establish a reliable water quality database including nitrates, phosphates, chlorophyll and dissolved oxygen levels.  Over seventy fecal coliform water samples were sent to the Barnstable County health lab for analysis. Oceanographic data collection from Nantucket Sound was also completed. This was the fourth year that data such as water temperature, water salinity, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity were recorded from the sampling locations. Obtaining this data is important for detecting any changes over a multiyear period.


The Department has acquired a new multi-parameter water-sampling instrument which acquires and stores data in the field that can be downloaded to a personal computer back at the office for investigation. The unit called a Hydrolab Mini-Sonde is fully capable of taking depth, conductivity, pH, dissolved oxygen, nitrate, ORP, and salinity. This tool will allow Harwich to sample environmental parameters at stations in all of its reported 33 ponds and and estuaries (except nitrate reading in seawater) keeping the data clear and organized.


Long Pond may get treatment. Murky, oxygen-deprived ponds benefit from alum approach. The towns are on the cusp of getting close to $300,000 in state monies to conduct an alum treatment and do some work to reduce the input of nutrients at the 740-acre pond. Excess phosphorus in a pond acts as an out-of-control fertilizer, oftentimes creating large algae blooms. When the blooms die, they suck up a tremendous amount of oxygen. The pond bottoms are left without oxygen, making them inhospitable for many forms of life, most notably fish.


The Natural Resources Department conducted evening cormorant harassment exercises at the power lines crossing Muddy Creek off Pleasant Bay. Shellfish Wardens Mike Ceinava and Tom Leach shared the duty in this Division of Wildlife exercise using shot gun fired rockets. The flock of birds perched on the high wires have reached numbers more than 1,200 and congregated close to sunset. There is evidence that bird droppings from the huge biomass have helped to contaminate the estuary also known as the Monomoy River. As the nightly exercise of shooting one or two whistler flares went on over four weeks, neighbors report the flock has relocated elsewhere, we’re but not sure where? The Harwich Natural Resources Department will continue to monitor the situation.


Catch Basins and Leaching

Massachusetts Highway Department has agreed to incorporate 35 more leaching and three more catch basins in improvements scheduled for next spring. A $2 million resurfacing project for 8.27 miles of Route 28 running through the towns of Harwich and Dennis is in the works. The improvements the state is planning include corrective drainage measures however there is no immediate plan to mitigate run-off into streams and harbors which are closed seasonally to shellfishing because of pollution. MHD suggested the addition of leaching and catch basins could take care of 90 percent of the pollution connected to roadway drainage. The cost of this project is estimated at $1,987,150 estimate for the 8-mile stretch.


Saquatucket Harbor got a face lift including some additional parking, but the entire project may not be done for a year or two depending upon when the State Access Board can fund the work on the east side. The Robert B. Our Company completed the west side lot, installing a leaching field for the catch basins and adding 27 parking spaces on the north side of the property.


In a town-wide survey conducted through the Board of Selectmen, residents spoke overwhelmingly of the need for a shuttle bus and supported a harbor-walk pathway between Wychmere and Saquatucket Harbor. They also cited the need for more public restrooms.


Town officials are once again looking for a better means of combating seaweed build-up along Red River Beach. Area residents are complaining about the smell and beachgoers are upset with the flies and swimming conditions in the thick netting of vegetation. The Highway Department has been following the directive of the conservation commission in beach cleaning efforts, using its equipment to push mounds of seaweed back into the water, but people who use the beach say this is not a satisfactory solution.  



Boat Ownership Documentation

There are 14 instances on the town’s commercial slip list where the names on the documentation of commercial vessel are different from the names having access to a slip. While there are 14 identified cases on the commercial slip list, that does not mean those vessels don’t have the right to be there. In some cases, the vessels are listed in the name of a corporation while the slip belongs to an individual in the corporation. In other instances, the husband is named as the owner of the vessel and the slip is in the wife’s name. In a few instances the dockage permit holder’s name is not associated with ownership documentation. A boat slip is town property and cannot be sold or transferred between parties.  There was one instance where a commercial vessel owner voluntarily removed the vessel from its berth after change of ownership without prejudice.  The provision within the town’s dock regulations which prohibits slips from being passed from one generation to the next was also challenged by a commercial fisherman who was forced to give up his space at the Wychmere Harbor dock at the beginning of January. Harry Hunt III, through his attorney, James Stinson of West Harwich, filed a suit which was later dismissed challenging a decision by the Harbormaster prohibiting Hunt’s use of the slip.


Dredging and Breakwaters

The County dredge began work on the Allen Harbor entrance channel the first week of October. The project removed 10,000 cubic yards of spoil. The sand replenished once popular Gray Neck Road and Earle Road public beach. The beach for some reason has been unable to hold sand since the time NSTAR Nantucket Island power line was burrowed beneath the bluff and beach there. The Red River Beach nourishment project, proposed for late May, was postponed because of the need to upgrade the application from 1,500 cubic. yards of sand to 10,000 cubic yards and resubmit a plan to dredge the Wychmere Outer Harbor. The project requires a booster pump to carry the sand over a mile to Red River Beach. The Selectmen had been counting on the project to renourish the sand-depleted public beach. A $30,000 credit that was given to Harwich by Barnstable County and used toward the Allen Harbor channel dredging this round.


The sands of time continue to pass through the west jetty at Allen Harbor filling in the channel. But the littoral drift that has occurred along Nantucket Sound since this peninsula was formed more than 12,000 years ago may also be clogging progress on reconstruction of the stone appendage. There are two stumbling blocks: money and ownership of land adjacent to the jetty. The town sought $310,000 this spring to fund its share of the jetty repair project and together with the Commonwealth’s Office of Waterways, has agreed to split the more than $700,000 cost for the work. Town meeting approved the funds, but voters turned down the spending request on a subsequent debt exclusion ballot.


Personal Watercraft and Boating Activities

August was a foggy month and vessel operators, particularly small boat fishermen operating without the aid of RADAR, were cautioned to slow down in poor visibility. There were several close calls reported by charter captains. The use of GPS makes anglers in the rips of Monomoy more daring in these conditions, however, GPS does not equate to RADAR, does not show oncoming traffic, and only relates static waypoints. Rules of the road require all vessels to reduce operating speed to a minimum in limited visibility. Be safe, we have had plenty of these accidents in the past, we don't want anyone to get hurt out there again.


Using borrowed boats, the Harwich High School sailing team made a name for itself across the waters of Massachusetts. A benefactor named Pasqual Antolini of South Harwich donated $8,000 to buy a fleet of eight 420’s from the Chatham Yacht Club. Mr. Antolini was looking to honor his late wife, Ann Antolini, an educator for 35 years in New Hartford, Conn. Assistant sailing coach Thomas Leach navigated the two proposals onto the same tack.  Harwich sailors finish second at States and were the 2001 Cape & Island League Champs.  The Selectmen accepted this gift and voted to allow the boats to be stored in the Harbormaster shop on Bank Street.


43 Coastsweepers volunteered to give Harwich’s beaches and ponds a cleaning nature could not provide. The beach “sweepers” walked the town’s shorelines and removed trash left behind by humans. The September cleanup was part of an international effort to keep the world’s beaches free of debris. Besides picking up the unsightly trash, cleaning the beaches is necessary to preserve marine life that can become choked on plastic and cigarette butts.


Harwich Harbormaster Boating Safety Academy graduated its smallest class of young operators. The class given in cooperation with the Environmental Police and Coast Guard Auxiliary was held over four nights during the beginning of July and certified students between 12 and 16 years of age to operate a motorboat. The course stresses safe operation. Prior classes have graduated up to 35 kids per class. Perhaps Harwich has caught up with this learning curve for the moment. We can think of a few adults and commercial operators who need to learn a little respect for their own wake!

In July, the owner of a power boat escaped with minor injuries after the vessel's engine exploded in Allen Harbor producing a plume of black smoke throughout the Port. The operator dove overboard when his 28-foot Bayliner caught fire just 30 feet from the town landing. Wind blew the wreckage across the harbor and into a private landing, where Harwich fire and rescue crews were able to hook the boat and secure it to shore. The fire was extinguished with foam and the harbormaster removed the boat the next morning.


Town Meeting voted to join five Outer Cape towns concerned about the impacts of personnel watercraft use, restricting PWC’s in Pleasant Bay. The ban on jet-skis came as part of a five town effort to limit the use PWC's in our inland waterway. Opponents supporting an outright ban included the Pleasant Bay ACEC commission, the Pleasant Bay Alliance, the Pleasant Bay Cruising Club, the CYC sailing School, and neighbors and users at large, including powerboat owners and fishermen. In addition to the threats posed by the high speed craft on Pleasant Bay, Harwich is far better equipped to handle the craft from its' two launching ramps on Nantucket Sound (at Saquatucket Harbor and Allen Harbor) where there are good resources to launch, park the trailer, enforce and rescue these “vessels”. The article passed along with a sister article prohibiting their launching and operation at Round Cove a tributary to Pleasant Bay.


Harwich Harbormaster Tom Leach along with 26 other harbormasters and assistants from and  Boston to Provincetown completed a week-long Harbormaster recertification course given through the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Training Council. Course dealt with harbor law, medical safety, hazardous material training, vessel approach and self defense. Certified harbormasters in Massachusetts maintain a high level of training and understanding for their own safety, that of their employees and boating public at large. A two day hands-on fast rescue and boating safety training seminar for harbormasters was hosted at Saquatucket Harbor and Town Hall in September.




Once again the Department plea for a fulltime clerk position lost in the voting booth. The harbormaster’s office hired a new part-time principal clerk as we wished Jenna Bossung fair tides on her departure for a fulltime position at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Harwich resident Jill Greene comes to the position bringing both intelligence and creativity. Jill, a graduate of Lynchburg College in Virginia, holds her masters degree from Simons College and is doing well in the busy role of representing the Harbormaster and Natural Resources Department. We have learned to settle for nothing less then the best and Jill is indeed a nice fit for this Department.


Harwich lost one of its finest volunteers with the passing of Walton MacCaughern. Walt served as a shellfish warden for many years and truly loved his volunteer work patrolling the flats and helping folks find their clams and quahogs and playing peacekeeper at the herring run. When we rebuilt the Shellfish Lab, Walt was there with all his tools and know-how.


Lee Baldwin, will be remembered by all Cape Cod outdoors enthusiasts who knew her.  Lee was a true friend to the Harwich Natural Resources Department and spent many hours over the years leading the Harbormaster on adventures to uncover problems along the Herring River. Nature was always first in her heart. She loved Harwich and its wildness.


Tom Leach


Natural Resources Director


Heinz Proft

Assistant Harbormaster/NRO