In Major Step, House Committee Sides With Chatham Over Monomoy Boundary Dispute

WASHINGTON – The Town of Chatham’s efforts to resolve the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge boundary dispute through legislation took a major step forward this week.

The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources approved a bill that would recognize the previous western boundary of the refuge. It now goes before the full House for review.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took control of over 3,000 acres of submerged land and waters as part of a new 15-year management plan that was approved last year. The area had previously been under state and town jurisdiction for more than 70 years and is used for fishing and recreation.

“Since 1944 all parties, including the Fish and Wildlife Service, recognized the western boundary of the Refuge as the mean low water line. Since that time the Commonwealth and the Town have exclusively and effectively managed the open waters and submerged lands west of Monomoy Island to the benefit of the environment, public, and Refuge,” said Chatham Selectman Jeffrey Dykens.

“All the legislation does is restore the status quo that was recognized for more than 70 years.

The legislation was introduced by Massachusetts 9th District Congressman William Keating (D-Bourne). If it passes the House, it would then move on to the Senate.

“Today was a great day for our hard working men and women who make a living harvesting shellfish and finfish in the waters west of Monomoy,” said Chatham Selectman Shareen Davis.

“We want to thank Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) for his support and assistance.”

In addition to a legislative path, Chatham is also pursuing a potential agreement with the Fish and Wildlife Service to resolve the issue.

In the meantime, Attorney General Maura Healey’s office continues to look into the possibility of suing the federal government over the matter. The Baker Administration has also signaled support for Chatham in the dispute.

“We want to especially thank Governor Charlie Baker and his Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton who worked to ensure bipartisan support for the bill. We are also indebted to Congressman Keating for introducing the legislation,” said Town Manager Jill Goldsmith.

“We look forward to working with Senators Markey and Warren to ensure the Senate approves the bill so it can be sent for President Trump for signature,” Goldsmith added.

Town officials also thanked State Rep. Sarah Peake (D-Provincetown) for her support. Peake traveled to Washington with town representatives as part of the pitch to administration officials and federal legislators.

Town officials have made multiple trips to Washington in recent months to lobby federal representatives over the dispute.

The bill, the town says, would eliminate the need to sue the federal government over the boundary. 

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