2004 Report of the


Natural Resources Department


2004 was an exciting year in which we experienced steady progress as well as some areas of anxiety in this department. The coldest winter in 75 years did not improve prospects for a warm spring as coastal waters remained cool. Summer brought many windy days including remnants of four hurricanes over the region making boating a sporadic thing with short periods of good weather. The worst was “left-overs” from Hurricane Ivan which approached ahead of schedule on the day of the annual Richard T. Wales Cup and blasted the sailing fleet with 70 Mph winds.


New law requires Municipal Waterways Improvement Fund

A new law, Chapter 91 section 10A was quietly enacted by the General Court in August requiring cities and towns to place all mooring fees collected into a Waterways Improvement Fund. The fund would also receive one-half the collection of the boating excise taxes. This reserve can only be used for harbor improvements. This is very important because as the operating budget ever tightens, financing items such as the replacement of broken and jacked pilings, bulkhead, docks and float repairs, etc. becomes an issue. Other towns have already shown that having such a fund is invaluable for infrastructure repairs. Further, the new law now mandates that towns can no longer discriminate against non-taxpaying mooring holders based on fees. This will mean an overall adjustment in the fee schedule required to maintain an expected level of revenue. Harwich collected $62,300 in mooring fees in 2004 and $58,894 in boat excise in FY03. An article is being provided for Town Meeting to create the Waterways Improvement and Maintenance fund, however, the expectation is the harbor budget will be adjusted downward to accommodate the difference. This may deadlock the spirit of this new law to “improve the waterfront”.



Dredging Projects

Dredge spoil was placed from Wah-Wah Tayshee Road to Cottage Ave November 2004.

Allen Harbor Dredging project for 2004 was completed on November 4th by the Barnstable County Dredging Department. Using an Ellicott Series 670 "DRAGON" Dredge named CODFISH, the County dredge team deepened the Allen Harbor entrance channel to its permit control depth of 6' at 100' width over 2800'. 12,000 cubic yards of sand was pumped to nearby public and private beaches from Wah-Wah-Taysee Rd. to Cottage Avenue. The Harbormaster requested an additional 2,000 yards of material be taken to reach the controlling depth. The cost of the project, $66,000 at $5.55/cu.yard, is being paid for from a series of articles called the Town dredging reserve fund. Material in this project had not been placed on the beaches east of Allen Harbor since 1998 when 2,417 cu. yards. were placed at Wah-Wah-Taysee Rd. beach. Many thanks to Wayne Jaedtke and the crew of the County Dredge for their effort in getting the job done, deepening the Allen Harbor Channel to 6' controlling depth, so boat traffic will be clear to go and beach strollers can now legally pass.


 A new policy of the Army Corps of Engineers has curtailed funding of many small port dredging projects including Saquatucket Harbor to finance the War in Iraq.  This will cause problems in the foreseeable future as the sandbars off of the Port continue to migrate into the channel. We also need to reinvent dredging plans for County dredging projects at Round Cove and Wychmere Harbor.



State funds Saquatucket boat ramp

In September, State Representative Shirley Gomes was successful in inserting $430,000 into Governor Mitt Romney’s supplemental budget to fund the replacement of the Saquatucket Harbor boat ramp and parking area. This project soon to get underway is expected to require a cofferdam. The Public Access Board will only allow construction after frost season. The boat ramp will be closed into the boating season. Therefore, boaters should plan to launch very early in the season or seek alternative water access areas in Chatham or Dennis. Saquatucket harbor offers the largest such facility on the elbow of the Cape.


Partnership for the nitrogen management

The Massachusetts Estuaries Project Partnership for the nitrogen management of Harwich’s Embayments began this year.  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 to collect data in order to protect and restore the health of the coastal embayment through watershed-embayment nitrogen management planning.  This builds a case for a waste water management plan (adequate sewer system).


Dr. Brian Howes of UMASS Dartmouth was frequently seen taking bottom samples of Allen Harbor. He is running a comparison with other estuaries in an ongoing investigation over three years to understand the nitrogen load that it can tolerate.  Although the jury is out, it is no secret that Allen Harbor is in the throws of eutrophication, and is regularly murky with algae and often foul-smelling. Many thanks to Allen Harbor Marine Service which offered Howes space to set up his testing equipment. The coves under study include Saquatucket Harbor, Wychmere Harbor, Allen Harbor, and Herring River. 


For the first time in memory, the eastern end of Red River beach and Wah-Wah-Taysee Road were closed to swimming due to elevated bacteria counts. These add to the list of areas that must remain closed to taking shellfish and/or swimming due to potential communicable disease levels which crop up seasonally. The Natural Resources Department, along with the Division of Marine Fisheries Pocasset Office, monitors these areas throughout the year to ensure that the public’s interest is protected. (adequate sewer system). The nitrogen gorilla is arguably one of the more important issues facing Cape Cod today – wastewater treatment and how to protect our sole source of drinking water and coastal embayments from septic-system runoff.


Dockage Fee Roll back

Notwithstanding the Waterways Committee recommendation this year to hold rates, the Selectmen felt it important and necessary to raise dockage fees. Unfortunately they were made acutely aware that it is possible for even the town to price itself out of the market. It was shown that this was having a negative impact on the town's revenue stream by way of more than 100 people who simply balked at slip reservations while other demanded refunds. By the time Board rolled back the harbor visiting fees the damage for this season was already done as transient dockage dipped below the previous years by 31%.


The Selectmen’s call to action, spear headed by Mr. Gibson, reduced the off-season slip rate from $1.75 per foot per night to $1.25 and the regular season nightly rate from $2.00 per foot nightly to $1.75. Unfortunately, the increased offloading fees also affected the number of vessel owners that normally find Saquatucket Harbor attractive as a port. Only 18 tuna landing permits were sold, 64% less than the year before. The impact was also seen in reduced fuel sales which dipped 34%.



















Saquatucket Dockage





Visitor Dockage





Offload Permits





Fuel Dock Commission





Mooring  Fees





Ramp Fee Collected





Allen Harbor Dockage





List Waiting Fee





Alle Harbor Winter Storage





Wychmere Town Pier





Ice Receipts





Mooring Servicing Agent Fee





Mooring Inspection Fee

























Total fees generated

























Salaries & Wages






















Harbor Management Plan in place

Officials, trying to determine how to best grant the public access to the water, have figured out how the town's moorings should be managed. The selectmen voted their version of a new Harbor Management Plan (HMP) in an effort to create a unified policy for regulating moorings and set rates. The entirely rewritten policy is the product of months of discussions between town officials, local boatyard owners, lawyers and residents who are determined to create a policy that is fair to both the public and private sectors.


In the past, boatyards, yacht clubs and hotels controlled roughly 156 of the town's potential 501 moorings. Under the new program, private boatyards will have control of but a few rental moorings. The new plan puts the former 126 rental moorings under control of the harbormaster. The plan also sets a town-wide waiting list, segmented by geographic location and managed by the harbormaster’s office. No longer will boatyards be able to offer vacant moorings. The document holds many other sweeping changes to the way Harwich controls its waterfront, these include "use-it-or-lose-it" policy on moorings, annual inspections, new categories for mooring servicing agent/inspectors, boat transportation agents, and increased user fees. The two boat yards will have the chance to add up to six work moorings over time. A maneuver to set an age 18 requirement to be on any waiting list has been withdrawn from the plan.


In an effort to help the Harbormaster manage the new system, the Town funded a full-time clerk in the Harbormasters office beginning with FY05. The full-time position was advertised and filled by Michelle Morris in November, who immediately went to work at reorganizing how we do business in this office.


Due to space needs issues and a fear by mooring servicing agents of over crowding, 435 of the potential 501 permits were assigned across town. One important issue of the HMP is to move stalled mooring permits into the hands of people on the waiting list. By October this office had identified 75 permit holders that were outside compliance with regulation, by either failing to use the mooring 30 days or missing an inspection. These people were sent a dunning notice to either comply or the permit would be revoked. At years end, 29 boat owners remained out of compliance and received a final notice that their mooring permits were revoked while three remain in appeal.



We’re here to “Pump You Out”

Larry Chandler in command of Pumpout boat

The Pumpout Program and “No Discharge Area” designation continue to be enforced. More than 2700 gallons of boat sewage were saved from getting into our local waters and transferred to the Yarmouth-Dennis treatment plant facility. Unfortunately, forbidden formaldehyde-based products are still in circulation in the boating world. Use of these products chokes down the treatment plant process. Unfortunately, we must pay for costly certification testing on the waste Harwich delivers over to Yarmouth to know it can be tolerated by the plant. We ask and insist that all boaters properly discard and do not use any bottles of old holding tank deodorants or reaction inhibitors they may have onboard.


Harwich received notice from Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) that towns must restrict the use of pump-out boats, not to be used as patrol boats except in emergencies. Harbormasters find this demand restrictive to the point of “tying a hand behind the back”, especially where the town reduced its fleet of aging vessels in lieu of the pump-out boats. The Harbormasters Office continues to manage its two pump-out boats at no cost to the local taxpayer by federal grants. Our main harbor patrol vessel COMMANDER, a 1990 Duffy 35, was obtained in 1998 at no cost to the local taxpayers through the NMFS vessel buy out. This vessel continues to serve us well.   


Shellfish Area impacts

A plan to dredge the valuable Oyster Creek shellfish area to improve boating access was thwarted by this department and others. We also went on record insisting that an East Harwich subdivision plan near Round Cove include a septic treatment plant. The seasonally approved shellfish areas are very important as family use areas. Suffice to say, Harwich continues to lose productive shellfish bottom due to the impacts of man. These impacts are both direct as the building of docks and dredging of bottom, indirect as the re-suspension of sediment from boat wake, or the accelerated eutrophication and growth of macro-algae due to the untreated nutrient load that comes from community growth. There is a lot that we need to come to grips with soon if we have any hope of preserving our estuaries. Otherwise, Allen Harbor might be typical of what we can expect for the future of our estuaries.


Shellfish Laboratory eleven years and growing

The Shellfish Laboratory located at Wychmere harbor has been rearing shellfish for 11 years.  This year more than 1.7 million quahog seed were reared throughout the summer in the lab and grew from (1-4 mm) to an average of (9 mm) in size.  Our largest seed grew as large as 27 mm.  The survival rate within the lab was 88% - one of our best years on record.  This was due in part to the portion of larger seed (3-4 mm) that we started with and grew so well.  While a portion of our quahog seed was purchased by the town, the majority of the seed was the result of a DMF/County Seed Grant Program.  Shellfish seed was obtained from (ARC) Aquacultural Research Corporation in Dennis. 


The Shellfish Lab was the site of our seventh high school summer aquaculture internship program.  The six week program, managed by Heinz Proft, enabled students, Hunter Twombly, Brendan McLaughlin, and Caitlin Williams along with teaching supervisor Ms. Terri Smith 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 381 visitors this year bringing our total to nearly 3,400 visitors in the past 7 years.  Funding for the internship program was received from the Barnstable County Enhancement Grant Program and the Town of Harwich.  We were very thankful for their support.  The shellfish from the lab were seeded in Herring River, Allen Harbor, Oyster Creek, Wychmere Harbor, Saquatucket Harbor, Pleasant Bay/Muddy Creek, and Round Cove.


In order for the quahog seed to be spread throughout the local shellfishing areas, they must be tested for Dermo, QPX, and an array of other harmful parasites.  This has been the fourth 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.    





Shellfish Warden Volunteers

The Natural Resources Department has come to rely on the assistance provided by our dedicated group of volunteer shellfish wardens to supplement the enforcement effort. Once again, Jim Coyle, Dean Knight, and Ron Saulnier were very generous with their time and energy.  All the hours required to cover two tides a day cannot be done without the assistance provided by our volunteer corps.  Our wardens give their time, not only because they care about the resource, but also for the sheer enjoyment they receive from meeting family permit holders and their families and offering their useful advice. Please do not be afraid to get a few tips about where and how to collect shellfish in Harwich by asking the next warden you see on the shore. They are there to make your day of shellfishing fun.




Resident Family



Non-Resident Family









One-Day Non-Resident











One hundred bags of certified safe oyster cultch were relayed from the Eastham Shellfish Laboratory to Round Cove as part of a county project. Although efforts were relatively unsuccessful in establishing an oyster bed in the past this may change now that the salinity in Round Cove is vastly improved so we will keep trying.


Herring Run Report

By March, the complicated project of replacing the lower end of the herring run at Johnson’s Flume West Reservoir with a new concrete ladder was completed. The project came in as planned at the cost of $35,000 funded by a grant from the US Soil Conservation and Natural Resources and Service. This project required a cofferdam and demolition. At the same time the baffles in the old run and new extension were replaced with H-style vanes and spacing adjusted according to the recommendation of the project hydrologic engineer to make the ascent for alewives easier. Despite these improvements the season brought a predictably poor run of herring which began late due to the cold spring. There were only a few significant days at the run (6-8 fish per minute) which was finished by mid May. 


herring ladder extention seen March 2004

The drastically low numbers of herring observed at the Herring Run in 2003 was cause for concern.  Factors including previous drought years and low water levels contributed to a severe reduction in migrating herring up through the herring ladder. Owing to a string of drought years, the Board of Selectmen closed the run through the year 2006. These forceful measures are clearly needed if there is any hope of recovering this resource. Alewives are a critical part of the food-chain in the ocean attracting striped bass, bluefish and other gamefish to our area.


Although the 2004 herring run was virtually non-existent, small numbers of herring were observed in the fish ladder from March 24th through the third week of May.  The Natural Resources Department along with our volunteer herring wardens recorded very low fish counts throughout the entire spring. 


To prevent the temptation of poaching, the Natural Resources Department installed a new gate at the Depot Road entrance to the run. The gate remained locked during the week, however will continue to be open during the weekends for viewing. Herring wardens were on duty to ensure that the fish remain where they belong. 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. 


Water Testing and Coastal Monitoring

Ongoing scientific data collection continues 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 12 freshwater ponds.  These areas were sampled several times throughout the summer in order to continue collecting reliable water quality for our database including nitrates, phosphates, chlorophyll, dissolved oxygen levels, and fecal coliform levels.  This was the seventh year that such data as water temperature, water salinity, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity were recorded from the sampling locations for our ongoing database. This will soon be made available as  public information on our website.



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, Ellen Geanacopoulos 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, 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. 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, Alice Coleman, Dave Nolan, Martin Gardiner, Gerry Dorman, Tina Maloney, Liz Maloney, and Walt McClean for their assistance.  Oceanographic data collection from Nantucket Sound was also completed using the Harbormaster vessel Commander. 



The Harwich Natural Resources Department continues 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 to the needs of the shellfish lab.  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. 


Ground Fishermen gain temporary access

Fishing fleet at Saquatucket Harbor winter 2004-2005

Local fishermen were able to convince the New England Fishery Management Council and the National Marine Fisheries Service to let them manage an annual percentage of the cod quota themselves. Spearheaded by the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen's Association, 58 boats formed an organization called the Georges Bank Hook Sector. Three years ago these fishermen relied on cod, dogfish and bluefin tuna. But federal regulators have shut down the dogfish fishery for at least a decade and for some undetermined reason, tuna have not been showing up in local waters. Because cod stocks are struggling, fishermen have been restricted to just 1,000 pounds a day, half what they could catch just a year ago.


Last winter, fishermen from the Hook Sector participated in an experiment to see how much haddock was in the closed area and if they could develop a bait that caught mostly haddock but very little or no cod. The boats found that herring and a manufactured bait both worked.

On November 22nd, 15 Harwich based boats geared up and were granted access to the closed area and its potential catch of 2.2 million pounds of haddock.
Massachusetts fishermen received on average $1.17 per pound for haddock. Our fishermen enjoyed this windfall with nearly every boat successfully landing between 2,000 and 125,000 lbs of haddock late into the night each fishing day until the New Years Eve when NMFS closed the grounds. Wychmere Town pier has not seen fish landings this good since the 1960’s.  


Parking Fines increased

Based upon a report from the Police Department, the Board of Selectmen dramatically raised parking fines to $50 for parking violations in the coastal areas south of Route 28 and parking fines for vehicle parked illegally in a boat trailer area is now set at $125.  Beginning last year, this office wrote parking tickets in the harbor areas as required, serving the $15 fine. When the new fine schedule became effective late July, our staff fearing reprisal from disgruntled offenders, decided it was better to leave writing parking tickets to the police.  It is not our place to say if the increase had been to a $25 fine it would or would not have achieved the same effect as the big fine. However, the expectation of another department monitoring the harbor parking areas or dampening a police officers enthusiasm in serving $125 parking fines is low.


Kayak Bill clears House

The Mary Jagoda / Sarah Aronoff Kayak Safety Bill (H-4456) that was introduced by Representative Shirley Gomes passed successfully through the Joint Committee on Public Safety and the Senate Ways and Means Committee.  The bill heavily supported by harbormasters throughout the state lost some of its accouterments during the proceedings with the removal of a directive for kayak users to wear an attached whistle and compass on the life vest. Even so the Bill is a moral victory for harbormasters and critical for the safety of the sport which annually takes more than 100 lives in America's largest boating sport. The Senate still remains to vote on the bill.  The Bill is named for two co-eds who drowned off Harwich Port in October 2003.


Seasoned employees move on

For some years, the harbormaster office has enjoyed a solid seasonal and year-round staff.  Many thanks to both Jill Greene who served part-time for four years, and Liz Maloney who filled in for Jill while on maternity leave. Long-time seasonal assistants Scott Lasky and Adam Lucas are both graduating college and starting their future as well.


Special thanks go to the Highway department for mowing our shop and marina lawn, fixing the vehicles, plowing the harbor lots and maintaining the toilets at Wychmere and Allen Harbors. John Eldredge’s building maintenance team installed plastic paneling inside Wychmere Harbor comfort station and has done a good job keeping those older buildings in shape. The workshop at 203 Bank Street (old fire house) received a desperately needed coat of paint by the County Jail inmates too.  We also wish to thank Larry Chandler for his continued hard work in maintaining our significant buoy system, boats, pump-out equipment and all the other stuff he does. Larry first began working for the town thirty years ago as a CETA employee. He has been a good friend and dedicated town employee.


Finally best wishes to Margaret Gallagher our Town Accountant who retired this year. Her support and guard for departments outside of Town Hall was well appreciated by department heads.









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

Heinz M. Proft, BS, MS    Assistant