Mashpee Approaches Barnstable, Sandwich Officials About Planning for Popponessett Bay

CCB MEDIA PHOTO Town Councilor Will Crocker asks a question, as town councilors Debra Dagwan, Eric Steinhilber and Philip Wallace listen.

Town Councilor Will Crocker asks a question, as town councilors Debra Dagwan, Eric Steinhilber and Philip Wallace listen.

HYANNIS – The towns of Mashpee, Sandwich and Barnstable may be the first towns in the state to collaborate on watershed permitting, as they focus in on Popponessett Bay.

The permitting could involve zoning and capital expenses to help clean up pollution in the bay caused by nutrient loading.

The bay is bordered by Mashpee and Barnstable, but areas in Sandwich are in the Popponessett Bay watershed and, therefore, contribute to pollution that flows from septic systems through groundwater into the bay.

“I believe it’s a very important effort. I believe it needs to involve all levels of our community,” Barnstable Assistant Town Manager Mark Ells told members of the Barnstable Town Council at their meeting last week.

State environmental regulators are encouraging the collaborative effort as a way to get towns to work together to deal with wastewater impacts on waterways. There is new legislation that allows the process, Ells said, and town officials are reviewing the legislation.

“They were looking for a community to step forward and begin this pilot process. I think because of the Mashpee selectman’s background, he was willing to help to embark on this,” Ells said.

Mashpee Selectman Andrew Gottlieb, who is also executive director of the Cape Cod Water Protection Collaborative, approached Ells and asked if the town would be interested in meeting about Popponessett Bay and watershed permitting.

Ells agreed, he said, because the town of Barnstable needs to know what other towns are doing with regard to shared waterways. The meeting involves no obligation, Ells said.

“They can do it alone, but there are three communities within the watershed that impacts the particular watershed they are interested in, which is Popponessett Bay. So it was appropriate that before he embarks on that, he comes to us and ask that question,” he said.

If the three towns cooperate on watershed planning, the effort would be a first in the state and would be seen as a pilot program, Ells said.

But because the effort would be new, Ells said he does not know how state officials would react.

“It may bog down as soon as we get to discussions with regulators because they really haven’t thought through this process yet,” Ells told the town council at last week’s meeting.

Ells said the effort comes out of the Cape Cod Water Protection Collaborative, a board he sits on as the representative for the town of Barnstable. But he said with wastewater planning in the region moving into a new phase because of the completed 208 Plan, a regional document on wastewater planning, he advised that an elected town official should join him on the board.

“I absolutely think that leadership should be involved,” Ells said.


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