Chatham Officials Discuss Monomoy Dispute At D.C. Meeting

CHATHAM – A legislative solution to the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge boundary dispute remains stalled in Congress and Senator Edward Markey is working on an administrative solution.

Chatham officials recently met with Markey and his staff, who have been discussing the issue with senior staff with the Department of the Interior and Secretary Ryan Zinke’s office.

“We’re optimistic that that’s in the works,” said Robert Duncanson, Chatham’s director of natural resources.

“Right now they are talking about some kind of administrative solution.”

Duncanson was one of the officials who traveled to Washington for the August 1 meeting, along with Selectmen Jeffrey Dykens and Shareen Davis.

In 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service expanded its control over nearly 4,000 more acres of submerged lands and waters through its 15-year management plan previously managed by the town and the state.

The new presidential administration, which appears to be in favor of less regulations and government control, may put the town and the state in a stronger position.

Duncanson said Chatham officials have not heard from Sen. Markey’s office since the meeting.

“They said they would get back to us in a couple of weeks or so,” Duncanson said.  “Hopefully soon we’ll hear back from them on another update.”

Duncanson said Markey is clearly up to speed on the issue and was very engaged in talking about how things are and potential options.

“We all came away with a pretty good feeling that it’s being well addressed in D.C. at the moment,” he said.

Discussions continue on an administrative solution for the boundary dispute as the legislation option is stuck in limbo.

Legislation filed by Congressman William Keating (D-Bourne) in the House, which would return control of the 4,000 acres of submerged lands and waters, passed through the Natural Resources subcommittee but has not made it to the House floor.

“Obviously there is a little concern,” Duncanson said. “We are getting close to the end of the legislative session and it hasn’t been acted on yet, but there is always hope.”

A third option of litigation is also still on the able after the attorney general gave notice of intent to file suit against U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

“There are really those three things and, frankly at this point in time, they are all still in play.”

The refuge was created in 1944. Previously, the Fish and Wildlife service managed all the areas above mean low water and the town and state managed all the open water areas and the areas below mean water.

“The only thing the town is really looking for is to go back to the way it was – basically the status quo,” Duncanson said. “Fish and Wildlife Service manages the upland areas of the refuge and the town and the state continue to manage the open water areas.”

U.S. Fish and Wildlife banned activities such as kiteboarding and fishing for blue mussels through its management plan in the disputed area. Officials say they do not plan to limit fishing or shellfishing in the submerged lands.

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