Federal and Chatham Officials Seek Monomoy Agreement Until Ownership is Determined

Chatham-Photowalk-MAY-2016.-SEALS-HAULED-OUT-OFF-LIGHTHOUSE-BEACH--350x350CHATHAM – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the town of Chatham continue to work towards an agreement on the management of the submerged lands at the disputed western boundary of the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge until ownership can be determined.

Officials for both met Thursday with hopes of coming to a Memorandum of Understanding.

“The issue of the MOU is a desire on both of our parts to establish something that will allow us to go forward without any further changes,” said Chatham Selectman Seth Taylor.

Chatham officials contend that the submerged lands west of Monomoy should remain under the control of the state.

The new 15-year management plan of the refuge, which was approved this year, includes about 4,000 acres of water west of Monomoy to fall under regulatory control of the Fish and Wildlife Service. The town and state previously oversaw the area.

Taylor said that ownership of the lands is the issue and can only be resolved in three ways. The first is that one of the two parties would have to agree to the others claim on the land.

“Neither Chatham nor the agency is prepared to do that,” Taylor said.

The other options are legislation or taking it to court.

“We firmly believe that legislation is the most effective and least costly avenue to resolve the matter of ownership,” Taylor said.

Congressman William Keating is expected to file legislation on behalf of the town and the state which would set the western boundary when Congress returns to session this month.

“In recognition of the fact that resolving ownership may take some time both parties on Thursday indicated a desire to maintain things as they are until ownership can be established,” Taylor said.

Scott Kahan, the refuge chief for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said in a statement that the meeting between the parties was productive.

“We acknowledge our difference in opinion regarding ownership of the submerged lands within the western boundary of Monomoy NWR,” Kahan said. “However, we believe a Memorandum of Understanding can outline a path forward for our continued work together in implementing the joint management actions identified in the recently completed management plan.”

Kahan said the Fish and Wildlife Service is hopeful that an agreement will be reached that works for all parties and is in the best interest of the land.

By BRIAN MERCHANT, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

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