Monomoy Boundary Legislation Takes Another Step Towards Full House Vote

CHATHAM – The House Committee on Natural Resources has issued a favorable report on legislation which would settle the boundary dispute over the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge between Chatham and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The agency took control of more than 3,000 acres of water and submerged lands as part of its new refuge management plan approved in 2016. The area had previously been under state and town jurisdiction for more than 70 years and is used for fishing and recreation.

The bill filed by Congressman Bill Keating would restore the refuge boundary to mean low water – which was how the boundary was originally set in 1944.

The committee approved to legislation to move to the full House of Representatives for review and the issuance of the report now moves the bill one step closer to a full vote.

“It’s placed on the calendar and just waiting for a date and when this will be considered in the House,” said Shareen Davis, a Chatham Selectman.

“And then of course it would move to the Senate if approved,” she said.

The report indicates that the bill would have little impact on the cost of maintaining the refuge and would save U.S. Fish and Wildlife on legal fees from threatened litigation from the town and state.

The report, which was issued on February 2, included a dissenting opinion from three members of the committee who believe the issue should be resolved by the courts.

“This is our permanent solution and this is the best possible scenario that we could expect from what we are dealing with from the federal government,” Davis said.

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.

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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