Town officials will attempt to persuade lawmakers to pass legislation that would favor Chatham over the Fish and Wildlife Service in a dispute over the western boundary of the Monomoy Wildlife refuge.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service approved its new 15-year management plan for the refuge last year which extended its control by about 4,000 acres of water and submerged lands previously managed by the town and state.
Congressman Bill Keating refiled legislation earlier this year that would favor Chatham and the state over the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the dispute.
“The intended trip to Washington to have meetings is going, I think and I hope, lead to a number of more discussions at the Washington level,” said Seth Taylor, a Chatham selectman. “And hopefully those will be something that further advances our goals.”
Taylor and other Chatham officials took a similar trip to D.C. last June but legislation filed by Keating was never addressed by Congress.
The dates for the trip have not yet been scheduled.
Taylor believes the legislation will get through committee and make it to the House floor.
“I’m very optimistic that the political climate is such that it’s going to be something that can get some traction and can move,” Taylor said. “Clearly, if we get a legislative fix than that heals all wounds.”
Last month selectmen voted to place an article on the town meeting warrant to authorize $120,000 to continue to fund a consultant, Jeff Pike from Pike Associates, to represent Chatham in the dispute in Washington for another year.
Selectmen unanimously voted to support the measure.
Taylor said having a new presidential administration, which appears to be in favor of less regulations and government control, puts the town and the state in a stronger position.
“I think the Monomoy issue is arguably in a much, much better position, and Chatham is in a much, much better position and the Commonwealth is in a much, much better position relative to the point of view we have been taking over this,” Taylor said.
The town, state and the Fish and Wildlife Service could not reach a Memorandum of Understanding last year for fishery management in the area until ownership of the disputed lands could be determined.
“We are going to have a new director of the Fish and Wildlife Service and we are going to have a new secretary of the Department of the Interior and these folks are going to be more likely amenable to the recent voice that Chatham and the Commonwealth have been presenting on this,” Taylor said. “We have a chance now at an administrative fix that was completely off the table last September.”
A third option of litigation is also still on the able after the attorney general gave notice of intent to file suit.
“I guess the good news is – I think compared to where we were last September – everything is looking much, much better,” Taylor said.
By BRIAN MERCHANT, CapeCod.com NewsCenter