2002 Annual Report of the


Natural Resources Department


The harbor had a very successful year notwithstanding a drought, a down turned economy, and conservation law measures which impacted the fishing industry in many ways. Still boats were moving and work had to be done. The parking lots were full and summer visitors and residents made heavy use of all the facilities. September brought a late bite for the bluefin tuna fishermen and kept the port very busy until October 25th. 


Our Town takes pride in the harbors and their importance. This is illustrated by a stream of volunteers dedicated in a mission to sample the estuary, lend a hand in Coast Sweep, clean the herring run, and help at the shellfish lab and harbormaster, or the garden club who plant bulbs and flowers and hang wreaths, and the Chamber of Commerce members who decorate the village and string lights for holidays. The fact is, you could not drive through the Port this summer without discerning Harwich's knot with the sea evidenced by new light pole banners that proudly declare Harwich Port as “Three Harbors – One Port”. We are proud to live and work in a community that cherishes its roots and there are people who care about its environmental values.


Dredging & Beach Nourishment

Having all permits in place the Board of Selectmen responded to a special request from this office to dredge the Allen Harbor entrance channel and place spoil at Gray Neck Road public beach. This began the second week of November. As part of a standing agreement, Allen Harbor Beach Association gave approval for equipment to pass down the private beach. Gray Neck is the site of the Nantucket power line and continues to have serious erosion issues with more than 1/2 the sand placed last year in a similar project being swept away to beaches to the east. The County Dredge CODFISH under direction of Captain Wayne Julin, moved 7,000 cubic yards of sand out of the shoaling channel to Gray Neck with 3,000 c.y. overage to Earle Road public beach.  The Selectmen also voted to have the spoil from the next Allen Channel project deposited at Wah-Wah-Taysee Road and beaches east.


Ramp Repairs & Parking Improvement

The face of the Saquatucket boat ramp was saw cut and repaired by private contractor in response to potholes which had developed and could not be kept undone. The Highway Department agreed to do the labor while the State Public Access Board approved to pay for materials. The ultimate plan to replace the ramp in its entirety with a redesigned structure has been delayed by Big Dig funding problems within the State.


The Town contracted Robert B. Our Co. to install drainage basins, and added a much needed 20 car parking area addition in the northwest corner of the marina parking lot. The entire area was repaved and readied in time for the boating season and represents our commitment to a future contract with Public Access Board to improve the east lot and boat ramp. The Selectmen signed a contract holding the State accountable for this future work.


Harbor Policy

A fairway channel through the lower Herring River mooring field was established. After several reasonable complaints from boaters in the river, the Harbormaster ordered that a channel be developed through the limited deep water area. The area was seemingly over crowded with moorings causing a bottleneck the river near the Association dock on the left bank. A letter went out to permit holders about the problem and a remedy indicating moorings in the fairway or abandoned would be relocated or removed.


At the urging of the waterways commission, the selectmen voted to give people on the boat slip waiting list only three chances to accept a town-slip before being sent back to the bottom of the list. Dockage rates for Boaters increased 5% in 2002 and will increase again 10% in 2003. It could have been much worse, with one recommendation urging 20 percent in this and in subsequent years. The board of selectmen put in place new slip permit holder criteria to ensure the person whose name is attached to the permit is the primary owner of the boat. If not, see you later. Proof of at least 51 percent ownership of a documented vessel will now be required. Berth and mooring holders must be the sole owner in the case of State registered boats. 


2003 Dockage Rates (abridged for the record)


Recreational Seasonal Leases              5/1-11/15/03          $6.64 /sq.ft

Commercial Groundfish Boats     1/1-12/30/03                   $5.54 /sq.ft

Passenger Carrying Vessels                 1/1-12/30/03           $6.36 /sq.ft


Mooring Permit Fees                resident/non-resident    


Class 1             35.0’-up                       $114.40 / $139.70

Class 2             25.0’-35’                     $88.28 / $114.40

Class 3             0-25.0’                                    $50.82 / $76.23


Overnight Dockage in-Season:  $1.67/ft/night


Boat Ramp:  $8.10/day;  $76.23/season pass;  Common Carrier $165.17


This was the first full year that we accepted credit cards and there is no doubt that this system has made collection of dockage and user fees easier on the customer and collection faster. We again set a record for receipts and operating well in the “black”. Clerking needs at the harbor remain high as we struggle with a part-time clerk. Our request for a full-time position was withdrawn indifference to the fiscal policy of no new or added positions for FY04. The work load on the small paid staff at the harbor (who double as natural resources department) remains overwhelming and our dollars generated per employee figure is untouched by any other department of the Town.  



Allen Harbor winter storage agreement was accepted and signed by the Selectmen. Allen Harbor Marine Service will be guaranteed boat storage for $28,135 through May 2005.


Whiteley Fuel Oil won the bid as the new fuel facility operator at Saquatucket Harbor Marina. Whiteley submitted a sealed bid to pay the town a fee of 23.25 cents per gallon of fuel pumped and replaces Kenneth Pina, the longtime operator of the fuel dock. To see Ken Pina lose the bid was a sad November day, but bidding laws prevail. Whiteley can provide the service at an annual increase of $8,500 as projected.



Shellfish Propagation

In excess of 2.3 million quahog seed were reared throughout the summer in the Wychmere shellfish lab and grew from (1-3 mm) to an average of (9 mm) in size.  Our largest class seed grew as large as 26 mm.  While a portion of our quahog seed was purchased by the Town, the majority of the seed reared was contracted through a DMF/County Seed Grant Program which purchases clams at 1mm from several hatcheries including Muscongas Bay, Fisher’s Island, and Aquacultural Research Corporation in Dennis.  This year the inside of the shellfish lab was painted, the upwelling tanks were gelcoated again, and intake catch screens were replaced. The lab enjoyed its fifth summer for the high school summer aquaculture internship program.  The six week program, managed by Heinz Proft, enabled students, Jessica Hewitt, Michael Decosta, and Brian Lasky along with a teaching supervisor Mr. Robert Smeltzer 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 400 visitors this year bringing our total to over 2,600 visitors in 5 years.  Funding for this program was received from the Barnstable County Enhancement Grant Program and the Town of Harwich.  We were very thankful for their support. 


Shellfish Health Report

All shellfish in relays must be tested disease free and our shellfish received a clean bill of health from the Shellfish Pathology lab in Woods Hole, Ma. The shellfish from the lab were then seeded in Herring River, Allen Harbor, Oyster Creek, Wychmere Harbor, Saquatucket Harbor, Pleasant Bay/Muddy Creek, and Round Cove. This was the second year that our shellfish from the aquaculture lab were tested (per order of the DMF) for Dermo, QPX, and an array of other harmful parasites.


The local Harwich shellfishing flats were again a busy place.  To help patrol the flats, volunteer shellfish wardens, Jim Coyle, Mike Cienava, and Ron Saulnier were very generous with their time and energy.  The assistance provided by our volunteer corps certainly makes the Natural Resources Department a more efficient, more productive group.  We thank all our volunteers for their effort.


2002 Shellfish Permits Sold


Resident Family                        340      $3400

Non-Resident Family                  51      $1530

Commercial                                  9        $360

Seniors                           75        $225

One-Day Non-Resident             19        $285

TOTAL                                    494      $5800


Hydraulic Dragging Regulations

The selectmen followed the Marine Water Quality & Shellfish Committee recommendation to allow resident owned hydraulic commercial draggers to fish for quahogs in Nantucket Sound. This practice is allowed only in water in excess of 12’ MLW and permits the taking of stock along the west side of Monomoy Island which had proven successful to Chatham boats last year. Harwich waters continue out to three miles off the Harwich Port shore.


Herring Run Issues

Last year, selectmen had a jurisdiction skirmish with the state Division of Marine Fisheries and the commonwealth’s environmental police over a decision to set herring run regulations prohibiting the harvesting of herring by non-residents. For the first time, Harwich issued special herring permits (free of charge) to town residents and non-resident tax payers who wished to take up to one 5 gallon pail of herring per family, once per week, with a limit of six-5 gallon pails per season.  79 of these special permits were issued by the Natural Resources Department at Saquatucket Harbor.   Water levels in the ponds and rivers were again at low levels this Fall/Winter making it very difficult for the juvenile herring trying to migrate back to Nantucket Sound


The herring run continued to be the center of attention for many people.  Herring were observed in the fish ladder from March 9th, through June 6th, 2002.  The Natural Resources Department had volunteer herring wardens specifically designated to address the issues and regulations surrounding the herring run on a daily basis.  We would like to thank Michael Sekerak, Gary and Sue Stephens, Jack Schultz, Will Bennett, and Paul Eldredge for the help they provided at the herring run.  Patchwork repairs on the rusted out holes in the metal flume portion of the herring ladder have not been satisfactory and plans are in the works for its overhaul. The Herring River watershed committee has issued an ambitious draft management report calling for conservation through land acquisition and easements and structural improvements along the river to allow for free passage of migrating fish. The report identifies the need for additional land conservation as a means of protecting that watershed and put a particular emphasis on lands extending from Route 6 toward Long Pond. The town has been attentive to the purchase of conservation land along the lower portion of the river from Main Street in North Harwich south.


Marine & Pond Water Quality

Ongoing scientific data collection continued in 2002 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. 


Local water quality monitoring continued in full force sampling Saquatucket Harbor, Wychmere Harbor, Allen Harbor, Herring River, and 14 freshwater ponds.  These areas were sampled several times throughout the summer in order to establish a reliable water quality database including nitrates, phosphates, chlorophyll, dissolved oxygen levels, and fecal coliform levels.  A project of this magnitude could only be completed with the dedication of an army of volunteers – Ken Pedini, Charles McAdams, Mary Henry, Stan Kocot, Alan Atkinson, Pete Watson, Jane Myers, Virginia Nabors, Sally Bradford, Barbara Murphy, Anne Watson, Bill Myers, Nancy McCarter, Frank Sampson, Anne and Abigail Hynes, Rich Houston, Bob and Trudy Goodwin, Bill Clary, Walter Gonet, Ron Bellengi, Ed Molnar, Catherine Paris, Patti Gregory, George Whitehead, Peg Mulligan, Tonry Piro, Michael and Jo Schreibman, Paul and Joann Ralston, Dave Robinson, Lorraine Donnelly, Anne Welch, John and Lynn Blitzer, Judy Donovan, Mike and Kathy Arcangeli, Richard and Sandy Bolduc, Al Winchell, Terry Gavin, Deborah O’Connor, John Howes, Chet Burg, Betty Bagshaw, and John Graves, and Linda Schultz. 


Additional thanks to our stormwater runoff volunteers who braved the cold and wet weather:  Dan Keefe, Rat Rivard, Leslie Boule, Jim Brennan, and Ed McCarthy.  Harwich also continued its’ water quality sampling as part of the Pleasant Bay Resource Management Alliance and would like to thank Al and Barbara Williams, Dave Bennett, George Cooper, Bill Clarey, Dan Hamilton, Anne and Abigail Hynes, Rich Houston, Martin Gardiner, Jean Raymond, Tina Maloney, and Walt McClean for their assistance.  Oceanographic data collection from Nantucket Sound was also completed using the Harbormaster vessel Commander.  This was the fifth year that such data as water temperature, water salinity, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity were recorded from the sampling locations for our ongoing database.


Allen Harbor Study

A fecal coliform evaluation study for the Allen’s Harbor Watershed was also begun this past year by the environmental engineers and scientists at Stearns & Wheeler, LLC.  The primary goal of the study was to identify the most likely sources of fecal coliform in the watershed and then to make recommendations to mitigate the sources and reduce the health risks associated with shellfish closures and water recreation in the Harbor.


Lake shore owners reported mats of green water algae on Long Pond and in June a sample taken for identification to County Health reported that the alga was of the genus Spirogyra which includes a number of species. The macro alga is light green "cottony" alga with a non-descript feel. Under the microscope it appears as a series of non-branched filaments with 12-20 chloroplasts/cell that arrange within the cell as loose spiral. The alga has no particularly bad reputation (non-toxic to humans) and is likely the result of increased phosphorus loads when they are abundant.



Stormtreat System Failure

The stormwater treatment system put in place at Wychmere Harbor eight years ago to capture the first flush of rain water, considered to contain the most pollution, from surrounding roadways, has proven "ineffectual." That is the word from a study by the Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management office. We are delaying local action that would return the eight parking spaces at Wychmere Harbor town pier lost when the system was constructed until it can be determined what would be adequate under Highway Title 9 plans.



A simple word change in a legal ruling could mean the difference between staying alive and going out of business for many Cape fishermen. The Federal Court ruled in favor of five environmental groups that sued the National Marine Fisheries Service to end overfishing and wasteful discarding of unwanted fish by fishermen. The Judge changed the wording on one of the key components of the agreement that set the number of days a fishermen could fish at 80 percent of the days fished during their most productive year between 1996 and 2001. The Court changed it to an average of the five years effecting locals who experienced up and down seasons or were between boats. At any rate, it means fewer days at sea and a smaller bottom line.


The uncertainty and insecurity of groundfishing continues to force our 40 fishermen to fill out their days at sea in alternative fisheries as lobstering, quahog dragging, charter fishing and highly migratory species. A record 105 vessels landed bluefin tuna over our bulkheads.


Congratulations to the High School Sailing team.The Rough Riders (13-7) led by then seniors Jamie Scarbrough (Duke) and Tommy Leach (USCGA) were  third at the State High School Racing Championship at MIT; finished 2nd in the Cape & Islands League Championship and were 8th in the New England Team Racing Championship at Bowdoin College.



The Harwich Junior Boating Safety Academy organized by the Harbormasters Office graduated 23 students from it's 5-day class. The "Academy" trains youngsters in the practice of safe boating and all graduates earned a Safe Boating Certificate allowing them to operate a power boat on the Commonwealth. The class open to the public was held at Stone Horse Yacht Club. Instructors included Harbormaster Tom Leach, CG Auxiliarists Jan Schneider, Peter McDermott, Gordon Pierce and Harwich Assistant Harbormaster Scott Lasky. If you have some youngster in your family who could use this training in the next July session please contact the Saquatucket Harbor office.


Indebted Assistance

The Harwich Natural Resources Department continues to receive assistance with many of our projects.  A great deal of thanks is extended to Bob Cooney, Deb Olstein and assistant Harbormaster John Reynders who volunteered many days tending to the shellfish lab.  We would also like to thank the members of the Barnstable County Americorps who have helped on several occasions clear debris and obstructions from our herring run.  Jim Coyle and Peter McDermott spent many long nights as wharfingers to help monitor and direct tuna landings. Also special thanks to our Police Officers, Fire Fighters and Highway Department team who were always there if need be to back the Harbormaster in any and every water emergency or harbor problem.


We are indebted for all the assistance we received from our many volunteers and boaters who lent a hand. We are pleased the general public is staying environmentally conscious and volunteering their help. We look forward to their continued support and a very productive 2003.


Respectfully submitted,


Thomas E. Leach, Natural Resources Director/Harbormaster

Heinz M. Proft, Assistant