Chatham Applauds Reintroduction of Monomoy Dispute Legislation

CHATHAM – Officials in Chatham are applauding Congressman William Keating for refiling legislation that would favor the town and the state over the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the dispute over the western boundary of the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge.

Fish and Wildlife’s recent management plan for the refuge claims the agency controls 4,000 acres of water and submerged lands west of Monomoy.

The town and state have always controlled that area and contends the claim.

The bill had been introduced by Keating during the previous legislative session.

“It had gotten a favorable move out from the House Natural Resources Committee but time ran out before it came up for a full vote in the House,” said Robert Duncanson , the town’s director of Natural Resources.

Duncanson says the bill reaffirms how the refuge was managed for more than 70 years.

“Their jurisdiction basically stops at the mean low water line and then the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Town of Chatham managed the fisheries and other activities that take place in the open water area,” Duncanson said.

The town has expressed concern with the management plan as Fish and Wildlife indicated it was going to take more of an active role in managing some of the fisheries and shellfisheries.

“Even the Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledged that it had been managed very well and there was no overriding adverse reason why they felt it needed to change,” Duncanson said.

Duncanson said the agency has proposed some restrictions and outright bans of activities that could negatively impact fishermen, shellfishermen, and the general public.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife banned activities such as kiteboarding and fishing for blue mussels through its management plan in the disputed area. 

Duncanson said the town expects the House Natural Resources Committee to have another hearing with hopes of it moving to a full house vote before moving to the Senate.

Another option for the resolving the dispute is litigation. Attorney General Maura Healey has given notice of intent to file suit against U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

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