Sunday, November 15, 2009

Seventh Annual State of Wellfleet Harbor A Success

“State of Wellfleet Harbor,” held yesterday at the Elementary School, attracted almost 200 people. Looking around the room, I recognized shellfishermen, town officials, environmentalists, bird watchers, fin fishermen, even another B&B owner. Lots of gray heads, but younger folks, too, focused their attention as the seventh annual SWH conference got under way.

First Tim Smith, restoration ecologist at the National Seashore, spoke on monitoring and adaptive management for the Herring River Restoration Project. He concluded the groundwater system is robust and durable when faced with such things as tidal restoration. Smith was followed to the podium by John Portnoy, a popular local hydrologist and member of Friends of the Herring River, who described how the restoration of tides in diked salt marshes affect our freshwater aquifer. Then Steve Hurley (Southeast District Fisheries Manager for the MA Division of Fisheries and Wildlife) gave a brief history of brook trout on Cape Cod and spoke to the possible restoration of native sea-run brook trout and blue back herring to the Herring River, as well as brook trout to the stream that rises near Marconi and empties into the bay at the Wildlife Sanctuary. After the Q&A and a break, Jack Clarke, of MA Audubon gave a summary of the Ocean Management Act as it applies to Wellfleet. Finally, Laurel Schaider, of Silent Spring Institute, informed the group about pharmaceuticals and hormones in ponds and groundwater on Cape Cod. After a break for lunch, Mark Faherty described Wellfleet’s oyster habitat restoration project, Jo Ann Muramoto provided results of the 2009 volunteer herring count program in the Herring River, and finally Ethan Estey spoke on sampling of surfzone finfish on Outer Cape Cod.

It would be impossible to share all the fascinating tidbits of information gleaned from this conference. Portnoy’s conclusion that tidal restoration will not damage well water quality felt very satisfying to the audience since Wellfleet intends to restore the Herring River and its salt marsh. Hurley educated us on the importance of water temperature for certain species of fish and explained how dikes/culverts have contributed to the decline in brook trout populations across Massachusetts, a state with 2645 dams. Clarke made us view the ocean off Cape Cod as the “wild west.” I learned Robert O’Leary was a promoter of the Oceans Act of 2008, which Clarke suggested we all read. The morning's biggest laugh came when MA Audubon's Director of Policy and Public Relations declared, “We don’t want the wind turbines to become Cuisine-arts for birds.” Of Schaider’s challenging talk I retained the SSI study of six Cape Cod ponds, three in residential areas, which showed more than twice the amount of pharmaceuticals, compared to samples taken from less densely populated areas. She frequently used acronyms including PPCPs, which stands for pharmaceuticals and personal care products. Schaider responded to a question on NStar’s spraying by saying yes, the herbicides could end up in groundwater and, for that reason, SSI has added one of them to its list for testing.

I could not stay to hear the final three speakers but heartily recommend this conference to anyone with a free Saturday next November. I would think SWH would be of particular interest to non-resident homeowners, back to close up houses. Former Selectman Peter Hall called it “one of the best events happening in Wellfleet.” Ned Hitchcock, a main organizer and fellow member of the Economic Development Committee, expressed satisfaction with the turnout and level of questions posed by audience members.

I asked a question about whether water filters work to remove PPCPs. Schaider’s answer was yes, solid carbon filters do a good job. If you are able to attend the conference next year, what topics would you like to see discussed?