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Posted on: November 15, 2019

Town of Nantucket Receives New Great Pond Permits

The Town, in a partnership with the Nantucket Pond Coalition, announced today the receipt of new pond management permits from the Army Corps of Engineers that will allow the Town to modify the Town’s management options of two Great Ponds on Nantucket.

“The Natural Resources Department held two public forums on pond management in 2018 and 2019 to hear public input regarding management of Nantucket ponds”, said Jeff Carlson, Natural Resources Director. “We then presented a set of Pond Management Principles to the Select Board in August of 2019, which were subsequently approved by the Select Board.

Based on those principles, we applied for new permits for both Miacomet and Sesachacha Ponds”.

The permit for Miacomet Ponds now allows drawing down water level in the pond for flood control, should the town elect to do so. “We are currently evaluating what ground water level elevations constitute flood conditions”, said C. Elizabeth Gibson, Nantucket Town Manager, “That decision will be science-driven by on-going data collection”.  The Town is purchasing ground water elevation meters from In-Situ, Ft. Collins Colorado, to install at Miacomet and Hummock Ponds and eventually at Sesachacha and Long Ponds as well.

The purpose of drawdown in Sesachacha and Hummock Ponds is primarily to allow exchange with seawater and increased salinity to support estuarine processes like fish spawning and oyster culture. Hummock Pond did not need permit renewal while Sesachacha did, but the current interpretation of the permits allows flood control as part of the management of those ponds as warranted.

The new permits also allow drawdown dates to coincide with the running of river herring, which spawn in the ponds each year as well as an option to undertake some additional dredging at Sesachacha should it be necessary to properly lower the water level. Actions will be adjusted to avoid impact to endangered species like piping plovers that nest on the barrier beaches to some of these ponds.

“The Pond Coalition was pleased to fund the work of Water Resource Services, the consultant the Town engaged to negotiate with the multiple state and federal agencies that oversee the permit process, said Robert Williams, Founder of the Nantucket Pond Coalition, “We did not have to update the Hummock Pond and Long Pond permits because they met the standards for pond management that are in place now, although some re-interpretation of permit language helped clarify options and limits.”

The Natural Resources Department has a robust list of pond management initiatives that could be undertaken in the years to come including the installation of artificial reefs, the application of an aluminum compound to eliminate algae and possibly dredging part or all of Miacomet Pond. This recent permitting helps set the stage for better management of all the ponds.

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