2008 Report of the


Natural Resources Department


The 2008 boating season was a tough one to get jump started for several reasons which include exorbitant fuel prices and a huge economic recession within the Country. This has had an impact on nearly every family financially in some way. At this writing, a record 14 long-time customers have been forced to give up town berths for 2009. We expect to see some fallout within the mooring permit group for the same reason, including folks not renewing their position on the waiting list. This computes to significant roll-over within our long waiting lists. 


The situation also affected the number of visiting boaters to Harwich Port which was down 50%. This impact will be seen with the 2009 report.  Despite the tough times that impacted the recreational boaters and commercial fishing interests, local passenger carrying vessels including party boats, the seal tour boat, and even  Freedom Cruise Line (the Nantucket Island ferry) seemed to make up for it with throngs of people visiting Saquatucket Harbor. All this people traffic meant a roll-over of parking spaces and a record amount of staff time cleaning and stocking the bathroom facilities at Saquatucket Harbor. No sooner did one boat load depart as another would arrive with its complement of passengers and the cleaning process would begin all over again.


The search by the public for affordable waterborne entertainment by families from a variety of income ranges is something that appears to grow during recession times. We are hopeful somehow that other merchants in the Port were capitalizing on these people as they stopped for dinner, food and gifts. It was painfully obvious our harbor control building, septic treatment system, and the staff, were stretched to their limits.
















Saquatucket Dockage






Visitor Dockage*






Mooring Permit Fee






Ramp Fee Collected






Allen Town Dock






Offload Permit Fee






Fuel Commission






Electric Use






Wychmere Town Pier






List Waiting Fee






Shellfish Permits






Ice Receipts












Restaurant Tie-up

(in v.dckg)





Mooring Drop/Haul 






Copying & Fax     






Trap Permit






Allen Harbor Storage























































Expenses (actual)






Salaries & Wages






























(receipts less expenses)






*Visitor Dockage includes $1400.40 which was recovered through Orleans District Small Claims Court against delinquent boat owners. The Harbormaster makes every effort to recover


Harwich Management Plan

Waterfront property owners located more than a half mile from town landings, in remote locations from swimming areas, may have the opportunity to secure moorings without dealing with a waiting list or being directed to town-designated locations. The BOS approved a change in the harbor management plan allowing private property owners to locate moorings offshore from their property, with the harbormaster’s approval. The issue was raised by Peter McClennen after he was denied access to old family moorings in front of his family property. It follows the position of the Waterway Commission last year that McClennen would have to place family names on a list and have them wait their turn for a mooring permit like everyone else.


Selectmen instructed the harbormaster to examine the matter. Prodded by an attorney, we recommended that because property owners such as McClennen were so remote from a town landing and swimming area, it did not seem fair to hold them hostage to the waiting list. The new provision requires the property owner have water frontage, not be located in an established mooring field, and be a half mile or greater from a town landing. Provisions also set a limit of two moorings per property and require moorings to be 15 feet or more from a property line. The mooring permit ceases to exist with the sale of the property. The decision to issue the permit once criteria are met rests solely with the harbormaster.


Dredging Permits and Beach Nourishment

An all encompassing dredging permit was finalized in September, increasing the chances of dredging sand from various channels and delivery to the public beaches and  to any private beach. Private owners and beach associations are invited to participate. The Town will hold the overall permits, but private owners must seek an order of conditions from the Conservation Commission. A dredging and beach nourishment policy has been in the works by an ad hoc group of town department heads meeting several times this fall to shape the document.  The town developed the policy after learning its past practice of selling sand at town cost may not be legal.


When it comes to private home owners and associations needing sand to restore their eroding beaches, it is no longer considered a gift when they offer to pay for material. They now will be required to bid for the privilege of buying the sand. There is some financial incentive as the cost of sand brought by dredge can be significantly lower than that brought by truck from a sand pit. It does however come with some requirements. Owners must bear additional costs of filing for the order of conditions. Harwich is the only town on Cape Cod with a comprehensive dredging permit that lets it schedule dredging in its harbors for disposal on public or private beaches along all of its Nantucket Sound shore. The town's new policy sets a minimum bid of the county's fee plus 10 percent. Under state law, the town must seek bids to dispose of anything with a value greater than $5,000. For use of its dredge, the county charges $7 a cubic yard for normal dredging and $11 a cubic yard for dredging with a booster pump to deposit sand over a mile away from the dredge.


Obstruction in channel

In early June, the FREEDOM ferry to Nantucket strayed slightly off to the easterly side of the entrance channel in thick fog. As the captain attempted to steer the vessel back to the proper side of then channel it hit something hard. It caused extensive damage to the open array running gear, props and shaft, on the port side and center engines, rendering the boat out of commission until repairs could be made. Diver Heinz Proft was deployed from the harbormaster’s vessel and discovered an overturned Coast Guard pyramid-shaped cement block buried three-quarters in the sand.  Heinz tied off a marker to the block and it was soon retrieved by the Coast Guard buoy tender. Upon further inspection, a large chip taken out of one corner was discovered. The 3,000 pound block is the property of the Coast Guard and used to mark the federal channel.


It is suspected that the government markers and associated piano sized block anchor can be pulled down the channel slope by winter ice leaving the channel markers off station. Often, if not well maintained, heavy scaling or rusting can cause the chain to break at its weakest link when these forces are at their greatest leaving the block precariously perched in the bottom and its exact position unknown. It was either hard gravelly bottom or one of these objects that was struck by the FREEDOM.  Subsequently, two other missing USCG cement blocks were located in the same channel. It is a good rule of thumb to never operate a vessel too close to a channel marker or buoy in shoal waters as the watch circle radius from the buoy can be nearly 30 feet, and vessels could be passing right over a sinker and not know until they strike it!


Wychmere Harbor Shellfish Laboratory

The Town began rearing shellfish in this laboratory in 1994. Since then, 26.7 million quahog seed have been grown in the lab.  This year over 1 million quahog seed reared throughout the summer grew to an average of (12.1 mm) in size and the largest seed grew as large as 25 mm.  The survival rate within the lab was over 99%.  This was due in part to the portion of larger seed (3-5 mm) that we started with and grew well in good harbor water conditions that 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.  Our quahog seed must be tested prior to seeding for Dermo, QPX, and an array of other harmful parasites.  This has been the eighth consecutive year for such testing and once again our shellfish received a clean bill of health by Mirco Technologies Inc. in Richmond Maine.


This was also our 11th high school summer aquaculture internship program.  The six week program, managed by Heinz Proft, enabled students, MaryKate Hamilton, John Demayo, Josh Rae, and teaching supervisor Jill Eastman 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 487 visitors this year, the most since 2001,  bringing our total to nearly 4,800 visitors in the past 11 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.  The Oyster Creek portion of Allen Harbor was not seeded.  The potential for the creek to be dredged in the very near future exists, a project we do not support, and there is no reason to risk freshly seeded juvenile quahogs that may be removed in that manor.


This was the second year we grew oysters. This year we tripled our amount to 300,000 small oysters (4-5mm) and grew them in our upwellers.  The oysters were yet again a success and grew to 1.5 inches and were bedded down in overwintering trays in Wychmere Harbor.  Raising this prized sought after half-shell delicacy has required more work and time, but there is certainly in the public interest in having more oysters available for Family permit holders.




Shellfish and Warden Volunteers

To patrol the flats and control local shellfishing, we again relied heavily on the assistance provided by one of the most dedicated group of volunteers that the Town has ever had, our shellfish wardens.  Ron Saulnier, Dean Knight, and Jim Coyle were very generous with their time and energy.  The assistance provided by our volunteer corps makes the Natural Resources Department a more efficient, more productive group.  The Harwich Natural Resources Department continues to receive assistance on many of our projects from volunteers.  A great deal of thanks is extended to John Reynders who spent yet another summer/fall tending to the needs of the shellfish lab.  We also were fortunate to have two new volunteers in and around the lab – Katie Pierson and Bob Sarantis.  We thank all our volunteers for their effort.


Family Harvest

This was our third year we asked shellfishermen to fill out a shellfishing survey when obtaining their license at the Harbormaster’s office.  From those surveys reported we were able to compile the following about the family harvest:


Average days someone went shellfishing in 2007……………......…8.21 days

Average # buckets of quahogs taken in 2007/shellfisher person…....3.85 (10qts)   

Average #buckets of oysters taken in 2007/shellfisher person….…..0.17 (10qts)

Average #buckets of softshells taken in 2007/shellfisher person…...1.65 (10qts)



Estimated harvest of quahogs in 2007....................................................646 bushels

Estimated harvest of  oysters  in 2007......................................................30 bushels

Estimated harvest of softshells in 2007..................................................277 bushels


Note above: When someone buys a permit we get the previous year’s survey results.  The 2008 data will be available after everyone has purchased their 2009 license and will be included in the next year’s town report.



Shellfish permits sold in 2008 (Calendar):


Resident Family                       251      $2510

Non-Resident Family                 71      $2130

Commercial                                 5        $200

Seniors                                      88        $264

One-Day Non-Resident           33        $495

TOTAL                                   448      $5,599


Herring Run Moratorium to 2012

The moratorium on the taking of herring in Harwich will continue through the year 2012, at which time the DMF will review the conditions of herring runs across the state. This will help the herring population to rebound. A report released last spring by the Herring Alliance stated river herring populations along the East Coast have been "decimated to a mere fraction of their historic levels." The report also said, "Entire ecosystems could be in danger as these once abundant fish continue to vanish from their home waters." Although this means it will be 2012 before anyone can fish for herring in Harwich, the moratorium doesn't stop people from visiting the run to watch this annual rite of spring.  Herring supply protein for fish, birds and mammals that share their habitat including large-mouth bass, birds of prey, otters, seals and raccoons.


Our herring wardens were pleased to see much better fish counts this year compared to the past 2 years.  The herring run has a long way to go in order to achieve numbers that we saw in the late 1990’s.  What we saw was encouraging this year.  We would like to thank Michael Sekerak, 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 to possibly view the fish we did have. We are now laying plans with the Harwich Conservation Trust and the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen’s Association to do an analytical herring count in 2009. Volunteers are needed to fill out the hours needed to insure its accuracy. Please contact us if you want to be part of this effort. 


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 inhibit the migration of herring to their freshwater spawning sites.


An eel raceway was installed last year as a collaborative effort between the HNRD, HCT the Division of Marine Fisheries and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources and Conservation Service. More than 6,000 eels were recorded successfully migrating into Grassy Pond in Harwich Port. This is yet another project that needs volunteers.



Harwich Water Quality Task Force

Local water quality monitoring continued in full force sampling 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 – John Prestonk Norma Spignese, Ellen and Chris Geanacapoulos, Bud and Betsy Ferris, Bob Smith, Bill Otis, Chet Berg, Jane Chase, Kathleen Welch, Anne Hynes, Lara Slifka, Ralph and Jane Anderson, Jack Lohr, Katie Mulhall, John Bitzer, Peter DeBakker, Tony and Marian Piro, Dave Mulligan, George Meyers, Janet DiBona, Patsy Lightbown, Art Winterhaltler, Julie Gammon, Paul Erickson, Mary Ann Jones, Deborah Aylesworth, Joe Seidel, Bill Clary, Walter Gonet, Ron Bellengi, Jay Kennedy, Richard and Nancy Gifford, Jim Brennan, Bill Myers, Ed McCarthy, Ray Sacramone, Connie Doherty, Bill Sliney, Mary and Bob Reynolds, Pete Watson, Terry Barry, Ted Janse, Mary Henry, Al Atkinson, Alan Young, Chuck Winans, Stan Kocot, Frank Sampson, Bob Sarantis, and Bob Goodwin.


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.  Data as well as aerial photos, some of which illustrate algal blooms, can be accessed via web links within the site. One bloom of special note occurred in John Joseph Pond on November 7th and lasted for two days.  A blue green algae sp. Microcystis bloomed and concentrated in the southwest corner of John Joseph Pond near the Simmons property.  The bloom was short lived and dissipated.  The Natural Resources Dept quickly responded and was able to collect samples to be tested.



Water Sampling Programs

Harwich also continued its’ water quality sampling as part of the Pleasant Bay Resource Management Alliance.  The Pleasant Bay Alliance has curtailed its sampling somewhat and has reduced Harwich to 2 sampling locations including Round Cove and Pleasant Bay.  Volunteers Tina Maloney, Walt McClean, George Cooper, Margaret and Rich Stenburg, and Charlie Pelczarski were generous with their time and we thank them for their assistance.  The website for the program is www.pleasantbay.org


Oceanographic data collection from Nantucket Sound was once again back on track.  The collecting platform, Harbormaster vessel Commander was back in service.  We collected Nantucket Sound water data including water temperature, water salinity, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity.  We reduced our sampling to 3 dates in order to conserve fuel. 


Muddy Creek Denitrifying Study

The problem is nitrogen flowing into Pleasant Bay from the ground water. Muddy Creek is loaded with nitrogen and is quite impaired. Researchers from the Massachusetts Estuaries Project at UMass Dartmouth have modeled the bay’s nitrogen levels and  concluded that 75 to 100 percent of it will have to be removed from Muddy Creek for Pleasant Bay to meet Federal clean water standards. The model supports damming the creek using an old cranberry dike which would maintain the freshwater uplands while improving the flushing of the lower creek – since less water would flow in, less would need to flow out. Freshwater systems tend to remove nitrogen, eventually converting it into a gas, so in theory at least, conditions for fish and benthic life will be better at both ends.


At a public hearing, the concept drew fire from those who believe the estuary's major function as a marine nursery would be forever changed and this spawned an alternative idea. It was suggested that we could open up the culverts at Route 28 (or add an additional culvert to the north) and increase the tidal prism of Muddy Creek just as is being done at so many restricted estuaries on Cape Cod. The Harwich Natural Resources Department initiated an application from Pleasant Bay ACEC to MCZM in support of this alternative.


Codium Study at Red River

Northeastern University student Chris Mchan has been studying Codium, an invasive species of seaweed, as part of a grad thesis. The threat it poses to the visitor economy is indeed very real. The seaweed litters Nantucket Sound beaches, and the Highway Department struggles with ways to dispose of the seemingly endless piles of the stuff. By conventional wisdom, codium actually shouldn’t be thriving here. That’s because codium is a macro-algae that uses a sticky foot (instead of a root), known as a “holdfast,” to cling to a surface. Aside from a few rocks, there is little on the Harwich’s south side beaches to serve as a foundation for codiumSeagrass, the prevalent species in these waters before the arrival of codium, doesn’t require a hard surface substrate.


McHan surveyed a total of 827 codium plants from various sections of Red River Beach, and discovered ninety-eight percent of the plants were attached to the same kind of organism, a snail-like bottom dweller known as crepidula, or the slipper limpet. This is the same common slipper shell seen by the millions on south-side beaches. He theorizes that crepidula provides more than a suitable foundation for codium. The slipper limpet feeds by ingesting organic particles from the water column, and probably takes a certain amount of codium gametes, which germinate when they are passed through the limpets’ digestive system. That means that the gametes are provided with plenty of fertilizer from the limpets’ waste, helping them grow in abundance.


It also appears that codium is reproducing most feverishly in the wintertime, when other species are more dormant. McHan theorizes by starting their lives when the competition for open space is low, young codium algae can get a good foothold. This could be accomplished by either interrupting the codium or the slipper limpet, and the key to doing that might involve a third party: nutrients in the water. Both crepidula and codium thrive in nutrient-rich water which comes from nitrogen from septic systems, lawn fertilizer and road runoff and this probably stimulates the growth of both species.


Replacement Projects  

The Town continues to replace failing pilings on the waterfront. A bid was awarded to AGM Marine Inc. for replacing the second group of 15 steel and 6 aging creosote tie-off pilings using fiberglass pilings. At the same time 8 intermediate class B treated pine pilings will be placed within the marina. The steel pilings became unreliable and were beginning to present a danger for the vessels and their crews that must use these berths. This project will be completed in early 2009.


The Public Access Board has temporarily postponed work on project PA-260 Saquatucket Harbor boat ramp. Although PAB sources inform us it is ready to go out to bid, not all the money is there to fund the $350,000 construction since there is a $175,000 shortfall on the project. In October, PAB believed that the project would be done in the fall of 2009. Now this important project is all but shelved for the time being on the short list to receive bond funds.



Harbor Redevelopment

Consideration for obtaining the adjacent Downey Property along Route 28 may be problematic at this point since a purchase and sales agreement is currently in the works to a private concern. The Capital Outlay Committee has recommended that we postpone buying this land and instead has recommended an overall planning study. This is to understand just how Harwich needs additional funds to accommodate and improve the working harbor, be completed. Unfortunately, study funding for this purpose was cut in half, reducing it to just an inventory study.



Allen Harbor Basin Project

An Environmental Notification Form (ENF) identifies the need to remove no more than 40,000 cubic yards of material composed of organic sludge which is the harbor bottom. This organic material limits disposal of the dredge spoil to off-site locations, not beaches. The ENF identifies a six inch to one foot-thick organic mat on top of more than six feet of consolidated organic material. This material has no structural qualities making it nearly impossible to move over the road without making a mess. A solution has been found which requires mixing the oozy spoil with a sodium polyacrylate polymer that will cause it to gel and quickly harden. This will allow the material to be trucked to a BUD (beneficial use determination) area at the Town landfill.


The estimates of four dredge options for 40,000 cubic yards range from $1.5 million to more than $2 million. 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. How the private sector within the basin will participate financially remains to be ironed out.. The Capital Outlay Plan anticipates undertaking this work by FY12.

Department Support

The Harbormasters Office is indebted to the Highway Department for all their great support throughout this year. We have said it before, Team Highway is capable of almost anything large or small.


Tom Telesmanick, our dock master, made routine and extraordinary repairs throughout the year keeping our entire facility up and running and vessels in one piece. We reorganized the shop building and grounds at 203 Bank Street. A number of unused vessels, including an abandoned fleet of boats from the Pleasant Bay public boating program, and Harwich Sea Scouts, were disposed of and the area was graded, trimmed back and reopened to its former standard. The importance of this building and annex parking lot serves many needs for the Town and it is quite apparent its importance will grow since the Town has so few public parcels in Harwich Port.


The Senior Tax Work-Off Policy program enacted last year has slowly been gaining traction. Basically the program allows active retirees to earn $750 off their local tax bill for 100 hours of community service to the Town.  This year we took full advantage of the program by scraping and painting trim on the office and various out buildings at the marina, the shellfish lab barn, the comfort building at Wychmere harbor, and the street side of our Bank Street workshop. Through a second program, the County Jail Out Reach, convicts rehabbed the interior and exterior of the Allen comfort station. We are buying time to replace this and the Wychmere Harbor comfort station.


We cannot thank our devoted staff enough, especially Michelle Morris for her hard work and most professional attitude in handling the deluge of paperwork that it takes to keep Saquatucket Harbor Municipal Marina, our waterfront and Natural Resources Department up and running. In fairness, we strongly recommend that this position as well as Tom Telesmanick’s be re-categorized. We also want to thank our summer team Peter Sawyer, Jake Sklarew, Matt O’Brien, Steve Bickerton, Frank Kunz and Jim Coyle for making the 2008 season one of the smoothest on record.


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

Heinz M. Proft, BS, MS    Assistant