2007 Report of the


Natural Resources Department

As I begin to write this, my 35th annual report, it feels like only yesterday I began working at Saquatucket Harbor. In that time I have tried very hard to be fair to all, guard the interest of those who depend upon the waterfront or access to it, and at the same time protect its resources. It continues to be an honor to serve the Town of Harwich.  


Piling replacement

As explained in last years report in an emergency plan using Special Town Meeting funds, 23 steel pilings at Saquatucket Harbor and 15 steel pilings at Wychmere Harbor were replaced with 40’ x 12” Pearson UV resistant fiberglass pilings at a project cost of $117,000 in late June. Fiberglass pilings are a new technology and they are desirable due to their large bending moment and ability to sustain huge sideward force. This work replaced all of the 14 year old “steelies” which fell woefully short of their life expectancy of at least thirty years. More piling work is needed replacing an additional 15 steel pilings that were added later in the dock system. We will no longer think about white oak or steel as a choice for tie-off pilings, and only consider limited use of CCA treated southern yellow pine as an option alternative.



                     FY07       +/-      FY06

Saquatucket Dockage 433,157   -4.20%   452,148

Visitor Dockage    155,758   10.37%   141,599

Mooring Permit Fee 63,130   -0.23%     63,275

Ramp Fee Collected 31,919   22.61%     26,034

Allen Town Dock    19,549   -11.26%     22,031

Offload Permit Fee 19,534   -42.23%     33,816

Fuel Commission    18,994   19.92%     15,838

Electric Use       18,354   -28.08%     25,519

Wychmere Town Pier 17,432   -31.27%     25,365

List Waiting Fee   17,175     6.38%     16,145

Shellfish Permits*   5,742   149.12%      2,093

Ice Receipts         1,882   -16.36%      2,250

MSA Fee                 800   33.33%        600

Restaurant Tie-up      461     9.76%        420

Mooring Drop/Haul      100                   0 

Copying & Fax            83      167%         31

Trap Permit             25                  0

Allen Hrbr Storage 12,445   10.00%     11,314

Refund                                     (916)

                   ­­­­________  ______   ________ 

TOTAL RECEIPTS     $816,541  -2.51%   $837,562


FY07 Breakout:    GEN FUND      WIF    Shellfish

                  $746,869   $63,930     $5,742



Expenses (actual)  79,126      8.87%     72,677

Salaries & Wages   218,178     0.17%   217,810

                  _______   ______   ________

                   297,304     2.35%   290,487



          *all shellfish permits entirely sold at Harbormasters

          Office instead of Town Hall beginning FY07



Out of the ordinary Occurrences

On March 15th, the Fire Department was able to put out an early morning boat fire onboard MISS MORGAN a 35’ codfish boat at Saquatucket Harbor. But not before the vessel was a total loss. The cause of the fire was related to a space heater being used to keep the engine and pipes from freezing onboard. This represents the first significant boat fire in the history of Saquatucket Harbor and could have resulted in a real marina fire if vessels were alongside or if it had it been at any other time of year.


In a bizarre late night accident, three days after the boat fire, a driver in an F350 pickup truck traveling at a high rate of speed drove off the end of the Town Pier smashing out the batter pile and damaging the cap log. The female driver was able to extricate herself from the vehicle which floated out further before sinking to the bottom in 12’. She swam back nearly 300’ to the shoreline in icy water (37°F) , a nearly impossible feat. She then broke into a nearby fishing shanty to keep warm. Authorities were unable to charge the driver because there were no witnesses at the moment of the accident. The town should know that our insurance agent Paul Silva did a great job settling a third-party  claim against her insurance company. It covered $7,775 worth of damages to the pier which was repaired by AGM Marine of  Mashpee, which also had the contract for the afore mentioned  pilings replacement.


Workshop and Parcels

The Board of Selectmen voted to allow town meeting to decide whether more than two-and-a-half acres of town land behind our workshop on Bank Street should be reserved for conservation or should be kept available for possible sale or development. The Board unanimously voted to retain control of the front parcel of land, currently occupied by the workshop of Harbormaster or for future needs of the Town. The discussion stemmed from a recommendation made by the Operations Review Task Force, which advised the town to consider selling surplus land to raise cash and increase the property tax rolls.


Due to its convenient location to the three harbors and its layout, the workshop at 203 Bank Street is critical to the needs of the Harbormaster and Natural Resources Department. If the Town were to sell this land it would lose opportunity for any future purposes of this the closest parcel of land that it owns to Harwich Port. By relocating the our shop to Queen Anne Road as an example, it would increase the round trip travel time for each employee from Saquatucket Harbor from 4 minutes to 30 minutes, severely cutting into worker productivity on nearly every project. This would also separate us from our focus at the waterfront. The site has other benefits serving the needs of a myriad of non-profit groups which would be hard placed to find an alternative situation. It also functions as a parking site for the adjacent cranberry bog trail and annex boat trailer parking for Saquatucket Harbor. The building is also available for annex storage in the second story for town departments if needed. Only the back shop is heated when considered necessary.


Harbor Redevelopment

This was the first full season that Saquatucket Harbor has gone without having a fuel facility within the marina. The aging fuel tanks were removed as planned in September. Not withstanding the need to buy fuel, boaters used the nearby fuel dock at Harwich Port Boat Yard. This went very smoothly with very few complaints. But it may have been problematic had the tuna season been on the upswing. The fact is the use of recreational motorboats is in great decline as gasoline prices are held high while oil approaches $60 per barrel.


The fuel dock closure had left us with some extra bulkhead space. We made use of it by moving the town’s only marine sewage pump-out station for easier deep water access. At the same time, we are now providing space at no charge to the Fire Department for a newly obtained hard bottom inflatable three-season rescue boat.


Consideration is still in the works for obtaining the adjacent Downey Property along Route 28. This would become additional marina parking, possible boat storage and/or an active rack moored boats which would be fork-lifted to the bulkhead. Relocating the Freedom Cruise Line and the charter boat fleet within the footprint of the marina is also worth consideration. The Capital Outlay Committee has recommended we postpone buying this land and instead has agreed that an overall planning study is needed to understand just how Harwich needs to spend additional funds to accommodate and improve the working harbor(s).


Shellfish Laboratory

The Town has been in the business of rearing shellfish in the laboratory located at Wychmere Harbor since 1994. During this time, over 25 million quahog seed has been grown in the lab.  This year nearly 1.7 million quahog seed were reared throughout the summer in the lab and grew from (1-5 mm) to an average of (10.1 mm) in size.  Our largest seed grew as large as 23 mm.  The survival rate within the lab was over 95%.  This was due in part to the portion of larger seed (3-5 mm) that we started with and grew well in the conditions we experienced this year.  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 in June. 


The Harwich Shellfish Lab was also the site of our 10th high school summer aquaculture internship program.  The six week program, managed by Heinz Proft, enabled students, Emily Fietz, Max VanDyck, Cody Ernst, and teaching supervisor Ms. Jessica Hewitt 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 315 visitors this year bringing our total to nearly 4,300 visitors in the past 10 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, Wychmere Harbor, Saquatucket Harbor, Pleasant Bay/Muddy Creek, and Round Cove.  This year was the second year we once again did not seed any shellfish into Oyster Creek in Allen Harbor because of the potential of the Creek being dredged.


2007 Shellfish Permits Sold


Resident Family                        300      $3000

Non-Resident Family                  66      $1980

Commercial                                  6        $240

Seniors                           84        $252

One-Day Non-Resident             18        $270

TOTAL                                    474      $5,742


Our quahog seed continues to be tested prior to seeding (per order of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries) for Dermo, QPX, and an array of other harmful parasites.  This has been the seventh 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.  


Oysters were added to our rearing program at the shellfish lab this year.  This year we purchased 100,000 small oysters (4-5mm) and grew them in our upwellers.  The oysters were a success and grew to an average of 2 inches in size and were seeded in Wychmere Harbor.  Next year we plan to triple the amount of oyster seed, test them for possible diseases, and after a clean bill of health seed other areas in Harwich as well.



Dedicated Volunteers

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, 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.


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 John Reynders who spent yet another summer/fall tending to the needs of the shellfish lab.  Bob Cooney has recently moved off Cape and those of us at the lab will certainly miss him.  Without a doubt, his many years of hard work made running the lab much easier.


Shellfish Harvest Survey

This was our second year we asked shellfishermen to fill out a shellfishing survey when obtaining their license at the Harbormaster’s office.  Last year we received 82 completed surveys, but since all permits are now being sold at the Harbormaster/Natural Resources Dept. office we received 219 completed surveys.  From those surveys we were able to compile the following:


Average days someone went shellfishing in 2006………………6.84 days

Average # buckets of quahogs taken in 2006/shellfisherman…...3.51 (10qts)   

Average #buckets of oysters taken in 2006/shellfisherman….…..0.09 (10qts)

Average #buckets of softshells taken in 2006/shellfisherman……1.24 (10qts)


Note: When someone buys a permit we get the previous year’s survey results.  The 2007 data will be available after everyone has purchased their 2008 license and will be included in the next year’s town report.



Herring Run

The Herring Run remains closed due to the moratorium enacted by the Division of Marine Fisheries on the taking of herring anywhere in Massachusetts.  The moratorium on the taking of herring in Harwich will continue through the year 2008, at which time the DMF will review the conditions of herring runs across the state. The Natural Resources Department along with our volunteer herring wardens were pleased to see a small improvement in fish counts this year compared to the past two years.  But the herring run has a long way to go in order to achieve numbers that we saw in the late 1990s.  What we reported was encouraging this year.  We would like to thank Jack Schultz, Michael Sekerak, Sue Stephens, 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 to possibly view the fish we did have.


The moratorium however did not deter the Natural Resources Department, along with the many Americorps volunteers, to keep the Herring River clear of debris and blockages.  Many early spring days were spent cutting dead wood, removing brush, and clearing debris that would have inhibited the migration of herring to their freshwater spawning sites.




Harwich Water Quality Task Force (volunteers)

Local water quality monitoring continued in full force. Samples were collected from Saquatucket Harbor, Wychmere Harbor, Allen Harbor, Herring River, and 13 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.  A project of this magnitude could only be completed with the dedication of our hard working volunteers: Pete Watson, Mary Henry, Ed McDivit, Bobbi McDonnell, John Reynders, Alan Atkinson, Chuck Winans, Stan Kocot, Alan Young, Ray Sacramone Connie Doherty, Bill Sliney, Ginny Nabors, John Preston, Norma Spignese, Ellen and Chris Geanacapoulos, Bud and Betsy Ferris, Bob Goodwin, Bill Otis, Chet Berg, Jane Chase, Kathleen Welch, Anne Hynes, Ralph and Jane Anderson, Jack Lohr, Katie Mulhall, John Bitzer, Tony and Marian Piro, Dave Mulligan, George Whitehead, George Myers, Art Winterhalter, Julie Gammon, Paul Erickson, Deborah Aylesworth, Joe Seidel, Bill Clary, Walter Gonet, Ron Bellengi, Jay Kennedy, Richard and Nancy Gifford, Herb Hansen, Frank Sampson, and Bob Sarantis.  The Harwich Water Quality Task Force now has a website: www.hwqtf.com.  It not only provides details about the program, but aerial photos of the sampling ponds and data collected up to this point. 


This was the second time, pilot Heinz Proft and Task Force volunteers were able to conduct a pond fly-over photographing each pond for comparison and to understand clarity issues of each of our ponds that are threatened by elevated nitrogen and phosphate levels from build-out.  In April, the Watershed Association of South Harwich with some support from Harwich installed a Solar Bee@, a solar powered pond water lift pump, in the deep end of Skinequit Pond to help aerate the 18 acre lake and try and improve clarity. . September’s flight showed Skinequit Pond particularly murky with an algae bloom.


Water Sampling Programs

Harwich also continued its’ water quality sampling as part of the Pleasant Bay Resource Management Alliance. We 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.  The website for the program is www.pleasantbay.org


Oceanographic data collection from Nantucket Sound was also hindered this summer due to fact our collecting platform, Harbormaster vessel Commander, was under repair.  Next summer we plan to resume collecting such  data as water temperature, water salinity, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity.


Oyster Creek Shellfish Area

A group of neighbors calling themselves the Oyster Creek Preservation Society was given permission by the States highest court to move ahead with plans to dredge a narrow tidal inlet despite objections from the town of Harwich. The residents have been fighting the town for four years for the right to dredge a sandy section of Oyster Creek in an effort to widen and deepen the channel to accommodate large boats into the creek. 


The town's Conservation Commission denied their request in a late decision in October 2003 based upon reports from Division of Marine Fisheries and this office lauding the productivity of the Oyster Creek as a shellfishing area that must not be tampered with. The Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the Commission's decision was invalid because it was issued two days after the 21-day limit established by state law that lays out procedures for the protection of wetlands.


The dredging still must be approved by other agencies, including the US Army Corps of Engineers and the state water quality program, before it can move forward. Oyster Creek has a long history as the most productive family shellfishing area that Harwich has. Deepening the creek will not only remove the beds but make most of the area off limits to shellfishing. This will most likely invite further erosion to the banks on either side of the creek. Abutters on the south side to the tight channel are seeking to stabilize the banks in defensive of the erosion the anticipated dredging will effect.


Dredging Projects and Beach Restoration

Long after the county dredge Codfish had finished clearing a shoal from the Saquatucket Harbor channel in June, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) notified the town that it had appealed the order of conditions issued by the Harwich Conservation Commission on the project.

The DEP Bureau of Resource Protection sent a letter to Harbormaster Thomas Leach saying the department was appealing the local commission’s ruling because it did not address concerns raised by the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP). Specifically, NHESP indicated that “No beach nourishment work, including placement or removal of pipes or other equipment, and placement, dewatering and grading of dredged materials, shall occur between April 1 and Aug. 31” in order to avoid adverse effects on the Resource Area Habitats of state-listed shorebirds. This effectively closes the door on all dredging projects between January 1st and August 31st. However, an appeal by our conservation agent John Chatham has removed this closure pending examination of the resources involved on a case by case basis. The NHESP letter cites concerns about two state-listed shorebird species, the common tern and the roseate tern, stating the birds would be harmed by the shoreline disruption associated with dredging. It also indicates that when dredged sand is used to nourish a beach, it must be placed at a very shallow slope ratio of 10:1.

Private participation in dredging and beach restoration projects were in the forefront this year,  beginning with a very late 2006 project removing 5,400 cu.yds of material from Round Cove channel to rebuild the barrier beach. It continues to be threatened by over-wash tides due to the Chatham Break. 2,200 yards of this material was paid for and placed on Wequasett Inn beach. A new breach in North Beach, south of Strong Island on April 19th, has further increased tidal range within Pleasant Bay to match more closely the 9 foot range of the open Atlantic. This threatens all property and shores in the Bay by undercutting banks and moving material around sandbars within the embayment.

One of our most aggressive channel dredging operations in recent years brought sand to Red River, Earle Road, Grey Neck and Wah Wah Taysee public beaches. All were re-nourished from 12,500 yards of material from Allen Harbor channel. The first part of this project began in June when the Barnstable County Dredge Department teamed up with the Harwich Highway to relay 5,000 yards of this sand across town to be spread at Red River Beach.

Members of the Wyndemere Beach Association now have enough beach to stretch towels and blankets. The beach association received 2,222 cubic yards of sand, paid for out of pocket through the dredging gift. We hope private shorefront property owners and associations will make more use of this idea as we continue to plow town money into an overall permitting scheme. Restoring the public beach at Wah Wah Taysee Road immediately followed this project receiving 1,600 cubic yards. In June, three shore front property owners at Saquatucket Bluffs, Seymour, White and Bronner purchased 2,700 cubic yards sand from the Saquatucket harbor channel that was placed at these private beaches and 1,000 cubic yards was placed at Neel Road in compensation for permitting costs the town covered in the project. At the same time, replacement of the engine on COMMANDER, long overdue, was hastened by a blown cylinder caused while towing large lengths of the dredge pipe from Chatham Harbor to Harwich Port. The onboard dry stack Volvo power plant was replaced with a much more efficient Cummins 350, complete with water cooled exhaust by Cape Cod Marine.

This effort to grow Harwich shoreline by getting sand back onto beaches both public and private is critical to protection of property and the enjoyment of the beach. We continue to forge ahead with a broad permit plan that will give Harwich the opportunity to take sand from any of its channels and place the sand on almost any beach in Harwich. This year we spent $85,286.24 on permitting which chewed heavily into our dredging reserve accounts. $146,623 was spent on the actual moving of a total   21,722 cu.yds. of material.  The Town received $56,750 in gifts toward dredging to cover the differences. At years end, the County dredge returned to Harwich with its new booster barge to relay approximately 5,300 cu.yds of channel sand at $11 per yard from between the Saquatucket Harbor jetties to Red River Beach west end and bathhouse area. Cost of this phase when the bill is paid will have exhausted our dredging reserves.

Water Metering Gauge Herring River

A new water metering station was established on the west bank of Herring River on south side of Route 6 by US Geological Service.   This is part of a network of 98 stream gauging stations in Massachusetts. Data from this network provides valuable information for flood warning, drought monitoring, water-supply planning and management. Also resource protection, construction and engineering, recreation, and other stream flow information needs. It is beneficial as another parameter

for understanding the movement or restriction of alewives within the river system. Live data can be read from the website.


Allen Harbor Basin Project and needs

The project description identified the need to remove between 20,000 to 42,000 cubic yards of material composed of organic sludge that is the byproduct of the marshes and stream to the north and nitrogen groundwater inflows. The organic material limits disposal of the dredge spoil to off-site locations. The assessment identifies six inch to one foot-thick organic mat on top of more than six feet of consolidated organic material. This material also has no structural qualities, so that upon dredging it would continue to slip into the dredge area, requiring more material to be removed. The only conclusion is that the material will have to be de-watered and disposed of off-site, either in a landfill, as composting material, or as non-structural fill.

An analysis of four dredge options for 30,000 cubic yards runs from $1,424,900 to $2,924,900. The bucket dredging estimate is $1,725,000. The potential for issuing a general obligation bond for waterways maintenance projects, much the same way some highway department and municipal golf course projects are now funded is being discussed. The Capital Outlay Plan includes undertaking this work by FY11. The plan also calls for immediate replacement of more harbor pilings, a new float system for Allen harbor, and for an engineering study of the total harbor needs analyzing where and how we need to make changes and improvements in this infrastructure.

Boat Ramp Repairs

In October, Robert B. Our Co. built a coffer dam and added a fifteen foot poured concrete section to the lower end of the Allen Harbor boat ramp immensely improving an undermining situation at the ramp caused by boaters "powerloading" boats on to the boat trailer. This project cost $88,860. The State Public Access Board is planning to complete the Saquatucket parking area and ramp replacement project in the spring of 2008.


Department Support

The Harbormasters Office is indebted to the Highway Department for all their great support throughout this year. Many thanks to Linc, Chris, Collin, Charlie, John, Buddy, Walter, Boo, and Judy for all their help from reconditioning our vehicles, remodeling our buildings, plowing the lots, mowing our lawn, backing us with man power where we needed it, to even keeping the heads presentable at Wychmere and Allen Harbor. Their ability to move a huge volume of beach sand across town was incredible. It shows that Team Highway is capable of almost anything large or small.

Heinz and I wish to thank harbor clerk Michelle Morris and dockhand Tom Telesmanick for their hard work and dedication where they are a huge asset. The operation of Saquatucket Harbor Municipal Marina, our waterfront and Natural Resources Department, requires nothing short of the hard work and talent it takes to run a major company in service to our broad customer base. As a new town employee, Tom Telesmanick, has demonstrated his versatility as he resolves each repair challenge and continues to be innovative. We also want to thank Alex Sherr, Jake Sklarew, Mat O’Brien, Steve Bickerton for their dedication as seasonal help.

The Natural Resources Department lost a great friend this year in the passing of herring warden and assistant harbormaster Garry Stephens. Garry loved boating, and volunteered his free time to protecting the alewife run. He was also credited with a dramatic boating rescue of Jeffrey McCarty whose boat had swamped on the Chatham bar in August 2005.  We will all miss him on the water.



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

Heinz M. Proft, BS, MS    Assistant