2005 Report of the


Natural Resources Department


2005 was a tough year financially on the Town and the harbors were no exception. The winter was just about the toughest on record with snowfall exceeding 100” and a wet spring made a slow start for a boating season in an already down spun war economy. Gas prices soared at the fuel dock from $1.87/gallon to $3.90/gallon after Hurricane Katrina damaged gulf oil rigs in August. This made recreational boating a last gasp consideration. Someone must have told the striped bass too, because they almost went off the radar screen this season along with the river herring. Still activity at our harbors could be categorized as steady and we finished the year on a positive financial note.  


















Saquatucket Dockage




Visitor Dockage




Mooring  Fee 2004




Offload Permit Fee




Ramp Fee Collected




Electric Use




Allen Harbor Town Dock




Fuel Dock Commission




Wychmere Harbor Town Dock




List Waiting Fee




Allen Harbor Storage




Ice Receipts








Restaurant Tie-up




Copying & Fax Services






















Expenses (appropriation)




Salaries & Wages (includes shellfish & lab)




Total  Expense














Harbor Management

The Harbor Management Plan (HMP), rules of governance of the harbors, continues to be revamped with four separate revisions passed by the Board of Selectmen, the latest on October 11th. This document represents a special challenge to the Harbormaster to insure compliance on all accounts. Basically, we interpret things in “black and white” not gray. This resulted in this office sending non-compliance notices and inevitable termination notices revoking 52 mooring permit holders and removing 119 waiting list applicants due to non-compliance, failure to meet an important deadline or regulations. Of these 23 sought an appeal through channels. The Waterways Commission reinstated 11 people to the waiting lists and ten people were restored to their mooing permit. One mooring permit denied by the Commission was reinstated by the BOS.


The passage of a new rules, subsequent audit, and interpretation by the Accounting Department, has focused Harwich on complying with State Law that requires towns to set aside all mooring fees and one-half of all boat excise collected into a separate waterways improvement fund. The Town Accountant has reported that this was very successful in its first year setting aside $125,452 to the fund.($61,460 is from ½ the excise tax). These monies are now available for waterways improvements at the behest of Town Meeting.


Many thanks go to Michelle Morris for her attention to detail, helping keep this office on the straight and narrow, as operations in recent years have grown more difficult and accountability is ever increasing.  We also want to thank seasonal assistants, MMA cadet Alex Sherr, Tim McLaughlin and Keith McQuade. Also, special thanks to Jim Coyle, Frank Kunz and Garry Stephens who double as part time assistant harbormasters .


On a sad note, long time Harwich Harbor employee William “Larry” Chandler was involved in terrible bicycle hit-and-run accident in October.  He was hospitalized and underwent surgery to repair his broken hips.  At the time of this writing, Larry is recovering and rehabilitating but faces more surgery for back injury.  The outpouring of support through letters, phone calls, and emails has been incredible.  Larry is an important member of our harbormaster ‘family’, and he is looking forward to getting back to work someday.


State funds Saquatucket boat ramp but delays project

Since last report a funding hitch developed in the $430,000 that State Representative Shirley Gomes was able to secure for the replacement of the Saquatucket Harbor boat ramp and parking area. This project has gone from being a Town supervised effort to a fully controlled state project with state design parameters and bid specs. The parking area portion was out to bid in December for completion by May 15, 2006. We are hopeful the State Office of Fishing and Boating (formerly Public Access Board) will tackle the boat ramp portion of the project after the season. Saquatucket harbor offers the largest such facility on the elbow of the Cape.


Dredging and Beach Nourishment

At Allen Harbor the rapid loss of sand off the project disposal beach due to erosion from waves and littoral drift in the Wyndemere Bluff area of Harwich Port was evident. Within 12 months after the completion of the project by the Barnstable County Dredging Department more than 8,000 cubic yards of sand had been eroded being blown and moved down the beach by wind and waves, or transported back to near shore sandbars. More importantly, these local beaches suffer from lack of the recruitment of new material from the west which is cut off by the Allen Harbor jetty system. This pattern repeats itself along the Nantucket Sound shoreline from Falmouth to Chatham. Without a sand source, this beach is unstable and is expected to lose sand at this rapid rate to the frustration of property owners. The loss of beach is also due to the shift of the slope of beach (after dredge material disposal) as it accommodates its proper angle of repose.


Efforts of local beach associations and home owners to stabilize and hold sand through the use of beach grass planting and snow fencing to capture wind blown sand has had limited success in this area. Undercutting of the beach is acute during periods of extreme tides coupled with southerly driven storm waves in this area. Further, revetments along this armored coast prevent nourishment of the beach with bluff material. Prior to 2004, the Wah-Wah Taysee beach last received sand in 1998. In August, Board of Selectmen permanently closed access to Gray Neck Road beach due to the complete loss of beach and stair damage at the base of the revetment.


The Selectmen authorized the harbormaster to reapply for all dredging permits.  As a result the town bid out permitting of 6 dredging projects which include. Allen Harbor entrance channel with disposal area at Grey Neck Rd, Earle Rd. & Patricia Lane; Allen Harbor entrance channel with disposal area at Wyndemere Bluffs; Wychmere Outer Harbor with disposal area at Red River Beach; Wychmere Harbor channel with disposal area at Saquatucket Bluffs; Saquatucket entrance channel with disposal area at Saquatucket Bluffs; Saquatucket Harbor inner harbor sites with disposal area at Neel Road Beach & Mill Road Bluffs.  After complications that developed with the Round Cove dredging plan to rebuild the Wequasett barrier beach, dredge spoil will instead go to Bay Road beach hopefully in 2006.


Shellfish Issues & Propagation

The Shellfish Laboratory has been in operation for 12 seasons.  During that time over 22 million seed has been grown in at Wychmere Harbor.  This year more than 1.6 million quahog seed were reared throughout the summer in the lab and grew from (1-5 mm) to an average of (10 mm) in size.  Our largest seed grew as large as 25 mm.  The survival rate within the lab was 95% - even better than last year.  This was due in part starting with a larger portion of  3-4mm quahog seed.  While some of our quahog seed was purchased by the Town, the majority of the seed was the result of a DMF/County Seed Grant Program.  All seed was obtained from (ARC) Aquaculture Research Corporation in Dennis. 


This was the 8th high school summer aquaculture internship program (6 weeks) managed by Heinz Proft which enabled students, Chris Ripa, Cody Ernst, and Phoebe Toner along with teaching supervisor Ms. Lara Slifka to work closely with the Natural Resources Department to monitor and maintain the Shellfish nursery during its’ busiest time.  The lab, open to the general public, received over 347 visitors this year bringing our total to nearly 3,700 visitors in the past 8 years.  Funding for the internship program was received from the Barnstable County Enhancement Grant Program and the Town of Harwich.  The shellfish from the lab were seeded in Herring River, Allen Harbor, Wychmere Harbor, Saquatucket Harbor, Pleasant Bay/Muddy Creek, and Round Cove.  This year was the first year we did not seed Oyster Creek in Allen Harbor.  The Town Conservation Commission is currently in litigation to overturn the DEP approval for the creek to be dredged by neighbors who own docks along the estuary. We did not want to risk freshly seeded juvenile quahogs being removed or destroyed as the spot could be ruined as a shellfish area.


We continue to receive assistance with many of our projects from volunteers.  A great deal of thanks is extended to Bob Cooney and who spent yet another summer/fall tending off-hour needs of the shellfish lab which requires daily supervision. 


Clam Testing and Red Tide

In order for the quahog seed to be spread throughout the local shellfishing areas, they were required to be tested (per order of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries) for Dermo, QPX, and an array of other harmful parasites.  This has been the fifth consecutive year for such testing and once again our shellfish received a clean bill of health from the Shellfish Pathology lab in Woods Hole, Ma.    


Harwich played a role in the largest outbreak of red tide ever recorded in southeastern Massachusetts. Red tide is a term to describe a natural bloom of single celled dinoflagellate that carries a harmful neurotoxin.  Very dense blooms can give the water a reddish tint. According to the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF), we experienced a “perfect storm” of conditions that caused this red tide outbreak to take place.  It actually began last winter with the accumulation of large amounts of snow.  Melting snow cover, along with the large amounts of rain we received in the spring flush put nutrients out into Cape Cod Bay and Nantucket Sound.  The bloom intensified when two nor’easters (May 8th and May 24th) brought the red tide into the warmer, nutrient rich waters of Massachusetts. 


Marine organisms such as shellfish can feed, accumulate and concentrate these neurotoxins.  The toxin does not affect the shellfish themselves, however if these shellfish were to be harvested and then consumed by humans the possibility of experiencing Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) exists.  The DMF has an extensive PSP monitoring program in place that tests the water for algal cells and shellfish for possible contamination.


The record toxin levels in 2005 were the highest ever recorded in this area.  Cape Cod and the Islands were heavily affected.  1,351,265 acres of marine water were closed due to this bloom.  77% of the total marine waters were closed to shellfishing.  One of the few areas not affected by the red tide was the southern Harwich beaches facing Nantucket Sound, while areas further out in the Sound, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard were all closed. The news of the red tide was a daily occurrence and its affect was far reaching until August.  There is no doubt we were directly affected by the bloom including a decrease in shellfish permits sold and a delay in receiving seed for our shellfish lab.


Now that a red tide cyst bed is prevalent in our waters, red tides may be a more common event.  PSP does not affect swimmers and beach goers.  The toxin is only dangerous when it is consumed and has been concentrated, such as by shellfish, and it does not pose a danger to bare skin.  The toxins are also not concentrated enough to harm a swimmer who may swallow a little seawater.


Shellfish Wardens give their all

To patrol the local shellfishing flats we again relied on the assistance provided by our dedicated group of volunteer shellfish wardens.  Ron Saulnier, Dean Knight, and Jim Coyle  have been giving their free time for years, were once again very generous. Harwich is one of only a few towns that relies on an unpaid corps to assist in this effort. This certainly makes the Natural Resources Department more efficient and more productive.  


Permit Sales

Shellfish permits have a new look for 2005 and now these can be purchased at the Harbormasters Office, the Selectmens Office or on-line though  the website. This year 389 shellfish permits were sold amounting to a total of $4,389 in the following numbers:  249 Resident Family permits ($2,490);  39 Non-Resident Family permits ($1,170); 6 Commercial permits ($240); 78 Senior Citizen permits  ($234); 17 One-Day Non-Resident ($255).


Herring Run

Over the past four years the numbers of herring arriving at our run have drastically reduced.  Factors including previous droughts, low water levels, and cyclical herring populations all contributed to a severe reduction in migrating herring up through the herring ladder.  In 2003, on our recommendation, the Board of Selectman enacted a moratorium on the taking of herring for three years.  We have just completed our second year of the closure.  Now concern over low herring counts this year in the entire state has prompted the Division of Marine Fisheries to enact a 3 year moratorium, beginning in 2006, on the taking of herring anywhere in Massachusetts.  Therefore, the moratorium on the taking of herring in Harwich is in effect through the year 2008.  Our volunteer herring wardens recorded extremely low fish counts throughout the entire spring at our run.  We would like to thank Michael Sekerak, Garry and Sue Stephens, Jack Schultz, and Dean Knight, for the help they provided at the herring run.  Although the herring run was locked during the week, it was open on weekends to allow the public viewing.


We would also like to thank the members of the Barnstable County Americorps who helped on several occasions to clear debris and obstructions from the Herring River and associated tributaries.  An unexpected December 9th snowstorm coupled with 80mph winds caused massive damage to trees and power lines throughout Harwich. A big hit for us was snapped and uprooted trees across the river corridor much like we saw during hurricane Bob in 1991. The fallen trees and branches create artificial dams and restriction along the shallow river from Long Pond to the West Reservoir and is always a special challenge for the Natural Resources Department.



Nitrogen Loading Issues
It may be scary but, two-thirds of the nation's coastal estuaries are nitrogen-polluted and Cape Cod is no exception. In New England, this is mostly due to residential septic systems.  Research at Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory shows how fast the oxygen is being depleted in the water in harbor core samples over six weeks. It is just a small picture of the estuary eutrophication process. Each time we look at the environmental issues, the additional pieces in the puzzle of how development and land use are affecting our environment become clear.


This is the second year for the nitrogen analysis of Harwich’s embayments through the Massachusetts Estuaries Project Partnership. This is a collaborative effort by the Town of Harwich and the DEP/SMAST Massachusetts Estuaries Project through the University of Massachusetts (Dartmouth) School of Marine Science.  The purpose of the project is nitrogen management planning to protect and restore the health of the coastal embayment.  The embayments included in the study are Saquatucket Harbor, Wychmere Harbor, Allen Harbor, and Herring River.  It is a 3-year study.



Water Quality Monitoring

Local water quality monitoring continued in full force sampling Saquatucket Harbor, Wychmere Harbor, Allen Harbor, Herring River, and 12 freshwater ponds.  Areas were sampled six (6) times throughout the summer in order to continue collecting reliable water quality for our database including nitrates, phosphates, chlorophyll, dissolved oxygen levels, and fecal e.coliform levels.  This saltwater data along with the ponds will eventually be available on the website www.hwqtf.com.


A project of this magnitude could only be completed with the dedication of our hard working volunteers – Charlie McAdams, Mary Henry, Al Winchell, Bobbi McDonnell, Peter Moynagh, Alan Atkinson, Chuck Winans, Stan Kocot, Alan Young, Pete Watson, Jane Myers, Connie Doherty, Ed McDevitt, Barry Knowles, Shirley Knowles, Jane Chase, Bob Goodwin, Trudy Goodwin, Anne Barrows, Chris Geanacopoulos, Ellen Geanacopoulos, Bob Sarantis, Faith Preston, Chet Berg, Bob Duarte, George Whitehead, Paul Ralston, Joanne Ralston, Mike Schriebmann, Jo Schriebmann, Bud Ferris, Betsy Ferris, John Howes, Dawn Collins, Chet Berg, John Preston, Barbara Murphy, Gerie Schumann, Anne Hynes, Abigail Hynes-Houston, John Bitzer, Lynn Bitzer, Charlie Donovan, Judy Donovan, Ralph Anderson, Jack Lohr, Dave Mulligan, Peg Mulligan, Tony Piro, Marian Piro, Joe Seidel, David Sadoski, Matthew Brown, Art Winterhalter, Judy Winterhalter, Julie Gammon, Paul Erickson, Dick Hess, Kathleen Welch, Debra Aylesworth, Bill Clary, Walter Gonet, Ron Bellengi, Jay Kennedy, Richard Gifford, Nancy Gifford, Herb Hansen, Cornelia Doherty, Danette Gonsalves, Al Winchell, and Frank Sampson. The Harwich Water Quality Task Force now has a website – www.hwqtf.com.  It not only provides details about the program, but includes an interim report and data collected up to this point.  The website is a work in progress and will continue to be upgraded.


Pleasant Bay ACEC Monitoring

Water quality sampling continued as part of the Pleasant Bay Resource Management Alliance program and we thank Al and Barbara Williams, Dave Bennett, George Cooper, Alice Coleman, Dave Nolan, Martin Gardiner, Gerry Dorman, Tina Maloney, Liz Maloney, and Walt McClean for their assistance.  The website for the program is www.pleasantbay.org


Oceanographic data collection from Nantucket Sound was also completed using the Harbormaster vessel COMMANDER by our shellfish lab interns.  This was the eighth year that such data as water temperature, water salinity, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity were recorded from the sampling locations for our ongoing database.


Pumpout Program

The untreated sewage from two recreational boaters in one weekend puts the same amount of bacterial pollution into the water as does the treated sewage of 10,000 people. As a group, Harwich boaters know firsthand the joys of life on the water, and polluting that water is a bad thing. Our two pump-out boats were kept busy as was our shoreside pump-out station at Saquatucket harbor where we picked up 3,200 gallons of sewerage. We also find boaters from Chatham and Dennis taking advantage of this free service in Harwich which is a function of a Federal Grant.


Cape Cod Rabies Treatment

The Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University has implemented an oral rabies vaccine program on Cape Cod to halt the spread of rabies among raccoons, coyotes, skunks and other wildlife as well.  Co-directors Dr. Janet Martin and Dr. Alison Robbins have been working to develop and administer the rabies vaccine program.


The vaccine treatment involves small bait blocks made of a fish polymer, which are impregnated with a small liquid packet of the rabies virus, which are distributed along the roadside in wetland and raccoon habitats.  Harwich was treated on October 21st and November 10th this year.  We received a dose of ~ 137 baits/Km2.  There will be a second treatment in the summer and fall of 2006. 


The baits pose no harm to children or domestic animals that may come in contact with.  The bait blocks do have a phone number and identification on them referencing Massachusetts public health. These bait blocks are quickly consumed within 24-48 hours of distribution.  They have proven very efficient at vaccinating raccoons for rabies.  If anyone has questions about the oral rabies vaccine program they can contact their local boards of health.


Long Pond Phosphate Remediation

Long Pond property owners last reported a musty smell and mats of Spirogyra a green water algae in 2003. Even so, post spawn fish kills have become an annual thing. Since before 1997, the concern for on and off fish kills, low dissolved oxygen conditions and stratification due to bacterial respiration during the decomposition of organic sediment has inspired the towns to be concerned about the future of Long Pond. Two studies, one in 1998 by the Cape Cod Commission and one by ENSR, Inc. published in June 2001 have inspired the Selectmen to support efforts along with the Legislature though Rep. Shirley Gomes for remediation of Long Pond. The ENSR report narrowed 18 methods for treatment to the two most likely: aeration (estimated cost $800,000) or alum/phosphorus-binding inactivation (stimated cost $300,000).


In 2004, State Rep. Shirley Gomes and the Office of Water Resources, Dept. of Conservation and Recreation, announced that the department is making $200,000 immediately available for possible phosphorus inactivation in Long Pond or increasing dissolved oxygen through aeration. Harwich and Brewster each voted $30,000 for this activity. In addition, the Cape Cod Commission is making available $10,000, plus $20,000 in staff effort. In 2005, a  contractor/fresh-water specialist had yet to be hired to review all data available and recommend the procedure to be followed.


Fishery Update

To keep cod stocks growing, some harsh measures were instituted, including a 25 percent cut in fishing days and a 50 percent cut in the cod fishermen could catch each day. Due to the ‘hit-and-miss’ nature of fishing, the 1,000-pound daily limit has been too few fish to rely on for a living. Other fisheries used by hook fishermen also had problems. Bluefin tuna did not show in any profitable numbers (we only sold 11 tuna landing permits) and the dogfish fishery also remained closed by federal regulators. The loss of the dogfish fishery and the migration of tuna offshore to the south, along with the continued decline of Georges Bank cod, all conspired to take a heavy toll on day boat fishing on Georges Bank. Small vessels participating in the booming sea scallop fishery that has showed promise over the last year became “hog-tied” when regulations on the books prohibited General Category scallop fishermen from fishing in the Great South Channel. Our commercial fishermen continue to find ways to diversify in many areas to be successful.


The closed-area haddock fishery fished by our long-line boats in December 2004 was the most successful fishery program ever in an area that had been closed to fishing for a decade. This year the fishery was reopened earlier in October making Wychmere Harbor a busy place.


Other topics

On August 10th, high school sailor and friend of all Saquatucket Harbor sailors, Alex Haas was killed in an automobile accident in Harwich. The tragedy was painted by his whereabouts as a missing person for several days having run off the road into a dark ravine on the south side of Great Western Road. It was his car cell phone that helped to narrow the search to Cape Cod and lead 27 police, fire and natural resources units to Harwich where his body was eventually located. He had been accepted and was looking forward to attending Mass Maritime Academy. He would have made a great cadet and finer officer and his passing seems so incredibly unfair.

The Harwich waterfront also lost two great friends. Ted Barrett and Tod Lee both passed away before Christmas. Ted was a great supporter of this office as a member of the Harwich Finance Committee and knew Wychmere Harbor very well from his years at Stone Horse YC and Wianno Sr. racing.

Tod Lee was just about the only person who could claim he grew-up living aboard a sailboat in Wychmere Harbor and attend Eleanor Thompson’s “school” at the Snow Inn. He also helped his dad Bill Lee at the family business, Harwich Port Boat Works. He eventually followed Joe Ellis as harbormaster (1968) and later became a local dock builder and heavy equipment contractor. A helpful friendly guy, he was always more at home on the water and outdoors. Tod made an unforgettable impression on just about everyone.



Thomas E. Leach, BS, CHM    Harbormaster/ Natural Resources Director

Heinz M. Proft, BS, MS    Assistant