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Edgartown, Massachusetts
September 17, 2010     Vineyard Gazette
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September 17, 2010

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FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 2010 VINEYARD GAZETTE, MARTHA'S VINEYARD, MASS. ELEVEN VINEYARD GAZETTE COMMENTARY OPINION&ANALYSIS LETTERS TO THE EDITOR From Page Ten an eyesore on residential property and can be a hazard, especially for bikers. I would like to know if registered letters have been sent to the other .residents in Edgartown with obstruc- tions located on public property ... or am I being discriminated against and harassed since this is the third time that I have been told to remove something while other properties are ignored. I will willfully comply with your request when I receive evidence from you that you are not discriminating and you have also sent registered letters to the other residents in Edgartown with obstructions on public property within the road layout. Virginia Probst Edgartown LOCAL COLOR Editors, Vineyard Gazette: Zounds! Sounds! The Sunday eve- ning concert on Sept. 5 at the Katharine Comell Theatre was not to be missed. How fortunate those in attendance were. The local color performances of Joe Keenan, Kevin Keady, Nancy Jephcote, Tristan Israel and Paul Thur- low made is cry, laugh and marvel at the performers' original compositions. Original was the song of the evening... the audience felt the passion of the sea, the sadness and joy of broken hearts, and blues found in memories. Thank you all for a wonderful evening. We have their CDs and you can too. The next time they appear, singly or col- lectively, catch their wave. Maria and Gene Gilsenan Edgartown and Cross River, N.Y. Edwina and Don Amorosa Sherman, Conn. MARTELL LAW Editors, Vineyard Gazette: Regarding events prior to Earl, I be- lieve Peter Marten should resign his post with emergency management. When it was pointed out that it was illegal to close the roads by Chilmark executive secretary Tun Carroll, Mr. Martell's re- ply was, "We're lying," according to the article in the Martha's Vineyard TLrnes. This statement certainly is grounds for termination of that post. I wonder how much he cost local business over Labor Day weekend. And the threats of arrest remind me of some foreign country! Get rid of this guy. Emergency management requires a levelheaded person with a feel for the Island. I'm glad up-Island police know the ropes and kept their heads. The Island has been through several hurricanes and each winter has three to four storms with winds in excess of hur- ricane force. People do have common sense. Stay calm folks, and remember this is still a free country. Police take notice. Jon Vincent New Bedford and Vineyard Haven FRESH AIR Editors, Vineyard Gazette: This year, 46 New York city children found out once again just how special summer is on Cape Cod. Fresh Air Fund hosts, volunteers and local supporters dedicated their time and efforts to help these inner-city youngsters experience simple summertime pleasures, including atternoons of swimming, fishing at sunset and roasting s'mores over a campfire. None of this would be possible without Cheryll Sashin,your local Fresh Air Fund volunteer leader, who works throughout the year to make sure host families and children have the opportunity to enjoy memorable summertime experiences to- gether. I invite join Cheryll and the local Fresh Air Fund committee to help spread the word about the wonderful opportunity of hosting next summer. The Fresh Air Fund, an independent, not-for-profit agency, has provided free summer vacations to over 1.7 million New York city children from low- mcome communities since 1877. For more information on how you can help to continue this wonderful tradition of volunteering, please call Mrs. Sashin at 508-566-0163 or visit Jenny Morgenthau New York city The Vineyard Gazette welcomes letters to the editor on any subject concerning Martha's Vineyard. The newspaper strives to publish all letters as space allows, although the editor reserves the right to reject letters that in her judgment are inappropriate. Let- ters mast be signed, and should include a place of residence and contact tele- phone number. The Gette does not publish anonymous letters. Casting a No Vote on the Fishing Pier By HARVEY HIS IS IN RESPONSE To'DAvID NASH'S LETTER TO THE editor backing the proposed fish pier in Oak Bluffs. I will do my best to respond point by point. I am by no means an expert on fishing or marine biology, but I am an avid fisherman who turned his love into a profession. I .run a charter boat and also assist in running the Skipper out of Oak Bluffs harbor. I have been fishing these waters since I could hold a rod, and yes, I learned to catch bonito Off of the SSA dock in Oak Bluffs back in the late 1960s and 1970s. It's true that there are great tales of fishing off the dock, some of them mine, until it was prohibited by the SSA, not due to homeland security but to the fact that people waiting for the boat were getting hooked while we were casting, and the SSA workers had to constantly clean up after us fisherman. The last thing the SSA wanted was for their customers to have to wait for the boat with the smell of bait, blood, etc. roasting in the sun. Since reading Mr. Nash's letter, I decided to call local tackle shops and talk to fishermen around the Island as Mr. Nash had done. I only told the tackle shop person that I had a fish- ing rod, and wanted to catch some dinner. Locally I was told to hit the bridges between Oak Bluffs and Edgartown or the sea wall at the bend. If I had a car, head up to Menemsha, or Lobsterville beach; theses were among some of the suggested fishing hot spots. Not one shop told me to cast along the side of the SSA dock. I thought that might be as I had heard at the last meeting that fishermen will not openly share their hot spots. As I drove around, I spoke with people I saw fishing. Some were not aware df the proposed pier; most said "fish where the fishermen are." Over the past few months, I have not seen anyone fishing from the shore beside the SSA dock. Good fishing needs bottom structure, such as rocks, boulders, mussel beds etc. There is plenty of structure under the SSA dock, btit there will be no structure under the proposed pier (a 200-foot cast away). The bottom is all sand, very shallow, and at low tide one could most likely wade out three quarters of the way down the 300-foot pier and still be able to cast. Believe me, I would have saved a lot of fuel costs if fishing around the SSA dock was so good. I would have simply an- chored 200 feet off the dock (the distance between the proposed pier and SSA dock) and fished, but the fish are small, and rarely do you catch one that meets the minimum size requirements. Fish stocks for bottom fish have declined as the catch size has increased and bag limits decreased; hence the population of small fish around the dock. q-here is no cost to the town for the construction, or significant maintenance. What constitutes significant? The town, I believe is responsible for cleanup (there is no water), garbage removal, 24-hour surveillance or police enforcement, harbor master costs to patrol boats tying up. RUSSELL I wonder who will be the benefactor of liability? I am' sure if a fall occurred on a plastic bait bag at night (there is no lighting), the town will point to the state, and the state will point to the town. This could be one costly fishing pier. I am not sure there would be much benefit directly on the oppositeside of the SSA dock, other than cosmetic. Mr. Nash cites the a "true swimming beach" as opposed to the false one on the proposed side, that would be affected. The last time I looked there is about 200 feet of tar and rocks sloping down to the water's edge. Hint: look to where people fish! How do you enforce a general public fishing pier? If you want to fish, bring a rod, but what ff your significant other does not have rod, can he or she join you on the dock? Six college students, down here for the summer, decide to hit the dock at 2 a.m. to fish; two have rods, but they decide to share them on a rotational basis. Do the four not on rotation stand on shore to wait their turn? This pier will serve as a scenic walkway and hang-out area, and it will be difficult to enforce a fishing-only policy..When fishermen go out to fish and they are With other fishermen, they talk, sometimes loudly. Some fishermen bring beverages, and over the course of the night talk may grow louder. I have witnessed this hundreds of time. On a quiet night, with no wind, it is amazing how even talking at just a slightly louder than normal tone can carry. If you lose the big one, there could even be a shout of profanity. I have been guilty of this! Teaching kids to fish can be done anywhere there is water, pier not necessary.There are several charter/party boats available to people with handicaps if they opt not to fish off the bulkhead in Oak Bluffs, or either bridge along the Beach Road, or Memorial Wharf in Edgartown, or any of the beaches.This pier will be open 24 hours a day; we cannot say when it will get the most use for fishing. It will be across from a bar, and could pose problems. I think we should all take a hard look at the feasibility of even having another structure jut out from shore. With each structure, erosion and deposit will occur somewhere. As Mr. Nash concluded, one of the biggest issues is that the SSA provided access to fishermen and it was taken away. If my memory serves me, there always was a no-trespassing sign on the locked gates. We all simply hopped the fence to fish. The SSA tolerated us fishermen, until we lost the privilege due to the mess we created, and our rudeness to some of the customers waiting for the boat. Access is still available on either side of the pier for surf- casting anglers to get a line wet. There is always a cost for something perceived as free. More research is needed to determine if an alternate location is better, or if a fishing- walkway pier is even needed in our town. Harvey Russell is a resident of Oak Bluffs. Tom Wallace Portable Dredge Digs into Great Port t By TOM WALLACE HE GREAT POND FOUNDATION RECENTLY HOSTED A Get-to-Know Nessie festival on Edgartown Great Pond. Underwritten by an anonymous patron, this event gave donors and neighbors a chance to see firsthand the portable dredge that has been acquired to assist the town of Edgartown with its efforts to preserve Edgartown Great Pond. While Nessie has already operated twice in the pond, and will do so again during the winter months, few people have had an opportunity to see her. Nessie is used to cut a channel through the shallow sandbars inside the barrier beach of Ed- gartown Great Pond so that openings to the sea will be more effective in exchanging high-nitrogen pond water with fresh ocean water. Neighbors around the pond and at the barrier beach were given an opportunity to visit her spaceship-like control panel while she toured a show-and-teU program.Anne Mazar, a seasonal resident, commented: "It was helpful to actually touch and feel the dredge and discuss some of the other projects currently underway on the pond." This dredge is unique. She needs only 20 inches of water to operate, making her ideal for the shallow waters of the pond. She can be launched from a specialized boat trailer, increas- ing efficiency in putting in and taking out of the pond. The entire launch process does not require a crane or any other heavy equipment. Nessie is operated by Tracy Benware and Tony Gramkowski of Aquamarine, a company owned and operated by Steve Ewing. Steve has spent his life operating heavy equipment in Vineyard waters and has served this Island as a leader in environmental management. The Massachusetts Estuaries Project is a comprehensive, multi-year study to assess the rapidly declining health of bays, harbors, and ponds in Southeastern Massachusetts. One of the first reports completed was of the Edgartown Great Pond, found to be under stress and requiring immediate ac- tion if it is to be saved. An increasing volume of nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, is affecting water quality and encouraging invasive weed and algal growth. This can destroy productive shellfish beds, damage the diverse habitat and restrict recreational uses now provided by the pond.The project has recommended specific remedial actions for the town to respond to this serious threat. One is to increase the number of homes in the watershed connected to the municipal wastewater treatment facility. Another is more regular and effective openings of the pond to the sea. Four times each year, under the direction of shellfish constable and biologist Paul Bagnall, a cut is made through the barrier beach, opening the pond to the sea and exchang- ing high-nitrogen pond water with fresh ocean water. During each opening, a large volume of sand is deposited into the pond, making successive openings less effective. Dredging can provide an extremely effective solution to this problem. In March, Nessie operated for two weeks, dredging a channel through a large delta sandbar that had built up in recent years, pumping sand out and renourishing the barrier beach. The following month, the pond was opened and remained so for over three weeks-- the longest in almost 20 years. Enhanced openings have already had a positive effect on water quality, particularly during this unusually hot summer when many ponds throughout the Cape and Islands suffered high bacterial concentrations and large algal mats. Mr. Bagnall found it re- markable that the water quality remained good in the pond throughout the hot, sunny summer. In these difficult economic times, the Great Pond Founda- tion raised almost $800,000 from property owners around the pond to acquire Nessie and partner with the town in protecting the pond. While dredging is extremely important, it is only one of many tools being used to improve the water quality. For example, the foundation is working with the Nature Con- servancy and private property owners to manage nonnative, invasive phragmites infesting areas of the shoreline. Founda- tion interns have provided valuable assistance to the highly successful oyster restoration project managed by the Martha's Vineyard Shellfish Group. Oysters are an extraordinary re- source in keeping the pond healthy, as each individual oyster can cleanse up to 15 gallons of water every day. A circulation study is being conducted to identify additional areas within the pond where dredging could improve circulation and water quality, particularly in upper coves. Research and testing is being done on harvesting algae and preventing recurrence of the frightening massive algae invasion that occurred during the summer of 2008. Since completion in 1996 of the modern wastewater treatment facility in Edgartown, there has been concern and uncertainty about underground effluent from the old plant moving toward the pond. Monitoring and testing is now being done on a regular basis to determine the size and location of this plume. This all adds up to a full plate, and the foundation is now pass- ing the hat to meet an operating budget for this year of $320,000. The goal is 100 per cent participation by riparian owners, and everyone who cares about this important and beautiful resource is encouraged to make a tax-deductible contribution.To learn more about the foundation or to make a donation, please visit or send your contribution to: Great Pond Foundation, P.O. Box 2005, Edgartown, MA 02539. Pictures by Lanny McDowell Bad Weather Begets Good Birding By LANNY McDOWELL 'F YOU KNOW PEOPLE WHO BIRD along the coast, you know they get .excited by the potential of tropi- cal storms. Not just for all the usual reasons, but because terrible weather can be terribly good for birding. Some- times. Well, very bad weather can be very bad for birding too, but strong rotating storm systems that gather force cross- ing the Atlantic a lot nearer the equator than the Vineyard is have the potential to trap southern seabirds within their far-flung spirals, and then deliver them to our neighborhood when the storm passes by, especially when the system weakens and the wind speed drops. A tropical storm, or a full-blown hurricane, climbing northward off the East Coast in late summer or fall has a pronounced effect on bird movements: it delays the continuing passage of birds toward the south, thus concentrating their numbers by blocking the move- ment of a weather system out of the north; the heavy precipitation grounds migrants that ordinarily would be over- flying or moving through the landscape; the strong winds offset typical migrant flight patterns, including those of spe- cies that normally bypass the landmass offshore; it also makes it harder for some birds to find food, because it's impossible to fly, to see and to forage, or because lood items are simply unavail- able. Seabirds may be hundreds of miles north and west of where they were when the gathering storm first absorbed them. When the storm passes or abates, the birds that have been displaced are driven to resume the patterns that sustain them, which the storm inter- rupted. On the morning after the passage of Earl, a collection of Vineyard birders scanned from the cliffs of Aquinnah and from Lobsterville and Red Beach, looking for storm-driven birds. Two black terns and two spotted sandpip- ers out on the oyster rafts on Men- emsha Pond were the only finds of note, and neither of those much of a surprise. We then traversed the Island to the Farm Institute, which was way less than spectacular, offering up the usual shorebird suspects, plus a pair of dowitchers and one or two American golden plovers. Disappointed, we split up and some of us drove the Atlantic leg of the Katama triangle and eventu- ally spotted, far off, a milling swarm of swallows. Thousands of tree swallows, in numbers beyond my ability to esti- mate, were gathered near Crackatuxet Cove, an area behind the dunes at the southeast corner of Edgartown Great Pond accessible from the right fork at Katama. They flew up together on the breeze, then alighted on the tops of bayberry bushes, then raised up again in unison From inside the car and outside on foot we enjoyed the intimate and un- usual view of being within a giant flock to roost just after sunset. I have never of swallows. The proximity denied focus on any one individual unless the birds settled on the sandy roadway. Rarely did the small birds seem to move out of unison. Even then, they were likely to be facing the same direction, into the westerly wind. Their movements reminded me of fans doing the "wave" in a stadium. Unlike many insectivores, tree swal- lows may include a fair amount of fruit in their diet, especially at times of year when insect fare is becomes harder to come by. They can digest the waxy outer coatings of bayberries. By late summer the swallows have become markedly social, as very large flocks are formed which eventually become migratory, moving south on routes that favor coastal marshes and river cor- ridors. There is a spectacle that occurs when masses of these swallows head witnessed it or heard about it happen- ing here on the Vineyard, but bird- ers on Nantucket reported a massive and astonishing roosting event last year. The observers were in kayaks in a marsh as night fell. All the tree swal- lows flew up above them until beyond sight.Then, with a surprising loud roar from their myriad wings, they dropped from the heights en masse, thousands and more thousands descending in a funnel cloud to disappear into the thick of the marsh grasses to spend the night. The entire descent took no more than about thirty seconds. Videos of this phenomenon show formations like long shoals of fish, or rushing down as a tornado in reverse. Many thousands of birds winging headlong as one fluid entity, then silence. Finally we managed to break away from watching the swallows. Just be- fore leaving the area we swung the cars into a puddled parking lot where some of us had watched flocking snow buntings last winter, because there was another small horde of swallows on the ground there. As the cars came to a halt, a single pale bird was spotted right in the middle of the group. A bird as pale as a discarded tissue in the breeze. It was almost all white, except for the most subtle pinky brown on the head, nape, back and shoulders. The bill had some light coloration, unlike a typical tree swallow's all black bill; the feet appeared pinkish instead of black; the eye looked dark, although more of a brown than the others' beady black: and the underwing linings were a distinct brownish buff. Albino and leucistic are by defini- tion two different conditions, refer- ring to a total or to a partial lack of pigment. Since this bird is close to albino, but not completely so, it falls into the category of leucistic. Either way, this is a sweet little avian anomaly, a glowing apparition that we could distinguish far off into the distance when it moved on with its fellows, more like a little white angel amongst the wild birds. Can I say for sure it was a tree swal- low'? Well, no, not absolutely, although I would take that bet any day.And what are the chances of finding one in a flock of thousands'? Not very good. One in a million? Gazette correspondent Lanny Mc- Dowell is an avian photograher and freelance writer who lives in West Tis- bury. On Monday this week he wrote the hallowing addendum: "On Sept. 13, birders on Nantucket were following up on a sighting of another unusual and very white avian visitor, a white pelican, when they spotted a single white tree swallow within a large flock over the marshes. Yet another observer reported seeing a white swallow on Tuckernuck Island the previous weekend. This little flyer gets around.t"