Some Hopeful News from Town Council Workshop on Shoestring Bay’s Future

As we reported on July 28, 2021, Prof. Brian Howes opened his annual report presentation to the town of Mashpee on the state of our waterways with these ominous words: “For the first time in 20 years I have nothing good to say.” Well, I’m pleased to report that, after hearing Town Manager Mark Ells’ presentation to the Barnstable Town Council Thursday night, “For the first time in 3 years I have something good to say.” That’s because Ells and Finance Director Mark Milne addressed the elephant in the room of their 30-year CWMP to reverse nitrogen pollution–some waterways, like Shoestring and Popponesset Bays, simply can’t wait a decade or more for sewering before the decline is irreparable.

The primary focus of last night’s “workshop” was options for funding the part of the $1.4 billion sewering project not covered by existing revenues and the $10,000 per home sewer assessment. [Spoiler alert: there are 2 main options, a debt exclusion or a Water Infrastructure Investment Fund (WIIF)] Watch the 2hour+ meeting

Our ears pricked up, however, when Mr. Ells stressed that the CWMP was a living document that has to “adapt to technology.” As noted in the slide [re-typed for visual clarity from Ells’ online slide], his team is “actively working with the Board of Health [and the DPW] to get good data” on Innovative/Alternative septic system technologies, with an eye to introducing them to “nitrogen-sensitive areas.”

In fact, Ells said, the Town has asked U Mass. Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science & Technology (SMAST)–Brian Howes’ department–to conduct modeling for Shoestring Bay [yay, we got a name-check] and Popponesset Bay regarding non-sewer remediation options.

We are grateful the Town is listening to its citizens complaints about the timetable, the priorities, and the methodology of CWMP implementation. We look forward to hearing more about next steps with the Board of Health and DPW and stand ready to do everything we can to educate our neighbors in and around Shoestring Bay about the challenges and opportunities facing our beautiful home.

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