20-year old Harbor Management Plan is updated

Fri, 12/13/2019 - 10:00am

Recognizing that the needs and uses of the Great Salt Pond and the island’s harbors have changed in the past two decades, the town is in the process of updating its Harbor Management Plan. The Town Council took a look at draft number eight at its most recent work session on Wednesday, Dec. 4.

“What I thought we could do is go through what the document really is. We are looking at a whole new document with a whole new number of sections,” said Town Manager Ed Roberge. He described the new plan as “really changed” from the 1999 version, and added that the plan is “85 to 95 percent” complete in terms of revisions.

Roberge reviewed each section and new information with the council. The plan covers five sections, including the overview and purpose of the document, descriptions and resources (Great Salt Pond, New Harbor, Old Harbor), regulations, harbor management ordinance, and appendices. Graphics of the island’s public waters, boat basins, moorings, and harbors were included in the plan.

Harbormaster Steve Land and Harbormaster Assistant Kate McConville were present for the discussion. Land said after the meeting that the most important section of the document in terms of his department are the ordinances that pertain to enforcement issues in the pond and at the harbors. While the Harbor Management Plan provides details about the uses and policies regarding the island’s public water areas, Land said that the Harbors Department “doesn’t enforce policies, we only enforce the ordinances.” He said newly updated ordinances were now in front of the Coastal Resources Management Council’s legal team, and will be returned with suggested revisions.

Kim Gaffett, the Naturalist for The Nature Conservancy, asked if the documents could include more references to the ecological value and significance of the Great Salt Pond. There was focus on the recreational uses of these public waters, but not enough acknowledgment of the resources themselves. Members of the council agreed to reach out to the conservation organizations on the island to get input on the ecology of the Great Salt Pond.

Roberge will return to the council at its Dec. 18 meeting, with the hope of having final ordinances and comments from the Coastal Resources Management Council.

Land said that he was “feeling really good about the plan,” but added that it was a “working document and will continue to evolve.” He said that it will be reviewed by the CRMC every two years.

Floating docks causing concern

Dock storage at Rat Island was also discussed at the council meeting.

Roberge said there were “concerns of them breaking away, making a mess” and impacting shellfish habitats and public access.

The Harbors Committee, with Chair Denny Heinz present, recommended to the Town Council to not allow storage of privately-owned floating docks near Rat Island, and to have them be removed at the owner’s expense. In May 2019, the Harbors Committee and Shellfish Commission requested that this storage location not be used any longer.

The floating docks owned by the previous owners of the Block Island Boat Basin have been removed from that location. Payne’s Dock stores its floating docks in the same location during the winter months. 

The council generally agreed that storing the floating docks at Rat Island will be eliminated by 2021. 

Receive and act on Executive Housing Policy/Lease Agreement 

The last item on the agenda, to receive and act on Executive Housing Policy/Lease Agreement and Remuneration, was pushed to Dec. 18. Council agreed to move the meeting to Dec. 18, when Attorney Kathy Merolla will be in attendance.