Docks Prohibition In Relay Areas Passed After Years Of Debate

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By: Laura M. Reckford
Published: 10/08/10


One by one, people of all walks of life, young and old, testified before the Barnstable Town Council last night to urge them to ban the construction of docks and piers in shellfish relay areas.

More than 20 people, commercial and recreational shellfishing enthusiasts, some with shellfish permits dangling from cords around their necks, urged the town council to protect the resource that provides sustenance, a livelihood and a traditional connection to the sea.

Town councilors listened and voted 10 to 3 to support new zoning to prevent docks from being constructed on approximately 27 parcels. The shellfish relay areas are in Cotuit Bay, North Bay, West Bay, Lewis Bay and Barnstable Harbor.

The three councilors who voted in the minority against the measure were James H. Crocker Jr. of Osterville, John Norman of Marstons Mills and James F. Munafo Jr. of Hyannis.

Mr. Crocker gave a lengthy explanation for not supporting the measure. He began his comments by saying, “Vote for Crocker,” in reference to the fact that he is running for state senator in the Cape & Islands District.

He then told the room full of shellfisherman and women that there were a lot of controversial decisions the council had to make and this is just one of them. He referred to people “filling the room” in order to intimidate councilors into voting a certain way, though he added that he was sure that was not the intent of the group gathered. He said there were a lot of things that affect water quality, not just docks.

The crowd reacted with grumbles.Mr. Munafo and Mr. Norman did not speak or give reasons for not supporting the measure. Mr. Munafo is running for state representative in the Second Barnstable district.

But the crowd reacted enthusiastically to comments by Henry C. Farnham of West Barnstable, who said he was not originally planning to support the full ban on docks. “I’m a property rights person. It was a challenge for me,”

Mr. Farnham said.He was leaning instead toward the partial ban, a measure that would have allowed dinghy docks only. But he said he heard that morning from a pair of “shellfish professionals” who explained to him about the problems in enforcing the current regulations. As a result, docks that are allowed to be used only for dinghy docks often end up getting used for power boats.

That changed his mind and he voted with the majority in favor of the docks ban.

Among those who spoke in favor of the docks ban was Kenneth H. Molloy of Cotuit. He said that the Barnstable Department of Natural Resources issued 3,483 recreational shellfish permits this year since January. Combined with commercial shellfishermen, the group of people who used the resource rivals users of many resources in town, he said.

The youngest speaker was Ryan Romano of Hyannis, a teen who said he enjoys shellfishing with his friends and he urged the council to protect the resource.His mother, Linda L. Romano, said she grew up on South Main Street in Centerville and back then she used to collect crabs, clams and oysters from the Centerville River. “Now we dig up quahogs and take them elsewhere,” she said referring to the relay process where shellfish are moved to a cleaner estuary.

Andre P. Sampou of West Barnstable, a leader of the Barnstable Association for Recreational Shellfishing, said the process of trying to get this zoning passed began for him 20 years ago in 1990 with a task force that recommended the ban on docks in the shellfish relay areas in order to protect the shellfish resource. Since then, he said, the number of docks in town has doubled. At “build-out,” which refers to a time in the future if all available parcels are developed, the number of docks in town will have tripled, he said.

Garrett Mills of Hyannis said he is a Wampanoag who has been a fisherman on the Cape for 35 to 40 years. He urged the council to protect the resource. He said he has experienced harrassment from dock owners who think they own the water near the dock.

Robert R. Jones of Hyannis, the chairman of the Barnstable Coastal Resource Management Committee, was the lone voice in favor of passing the alternate measure allowing only dinghy docks in shellfish relay areas. He cited property rights as a reason not to support the full ban on docks.

Town Councilor Richard G. Barry of Cotuit, who sponsored the measure and worked with shellfishermen to get it before the council, said he believes the councilors need to represent their constituents. He urged them to listen to those speaking in favor of protecting the shellfish.

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