Mass. Lobstermenâ€™s Association drops its appeals of Winthrop Beach project
By Joseph Domelowicz Jr.
Secretary of Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles announced on Tuesday that an agreement had been reached between the Massachusetts Lobstermanâ€™s Association and the Department of Conservation and Recreation on the use of sand from an offshore borrow site (NOMES 1) to be used to replenish Winthrop Beach. The agreement includes the Lobstermenâ€™s pledge to drop its appeals of the state permits, which had previously been granted to the project, and allows the DCR to apply to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a federal dredging permit.
The announcement effectively removes the final state hurdles to the Winthrop Shores Restoration project, which has been in the planning and permitting stages for almost a decade.
â€œ(House Ways and Means) Chairman Robert Deleo and I have been talking about this project since the day I took office,â€ said Bowles, in a private interview at the Sun Transcript office on Tuesday. â€œHe has been a very dedicated advocate for this project and Iâ€™d like to commend the chairman fro his work and effort on this project. Iâ€™d also like to commend the Lobstermanâ€™s Association, which had raised some legitimate issues of concern (in their appeal) and this settlement addresses those issues.â€
Secretary Bowles also credited the Department of Conservation and Recreation for its willingness to work with the Lobstermen to come to agreement.
â€œHowever, I donâ€™t want to give the impression that this is all over,â€ said Bowles. â€œWe still have some work to do to obtain the other federal permits that are needed from the Army Corps of Engineers. We will be meeting with the federal officials involved in granting those permits to make sure they know that Governor Patrick views this project as a priority, as do I and as does the congressional delegation.â€
Representative DeLeo, who has been championing this project on Beacon Hill for nearly a decade, said he was excited at the news that the state appeals had been dropped.
â€œItâ€™s an awful big victory for this project,â€ said Deleo. â€œThe secretary has been a man of his word in terms of his commitment to this project, he has lived up to what he said he would try to do and he deserves a great deal of credit for getting us a step closer.â€
DeLeo said that he had been in daily contact with Secretary Bowles over the past few months and pledged to continue working to see the project completed.
â€œThe poor guy came in to my office just to say hi and introduce himself and I spent a half-hour just talking to him about the Winthrop Beach,â€ said DeLeo, of his first meeting with Bowles. â€œIâ€™ve already started the process of contacting the federal government. Congressman Markey has been involved and has been very helpful and Iâ€™ve spoken personally to the gentleman at the Army Corps of Engineers about the project and I intend to do so again.â€
Secretary Bowles was confident that obtaining the federal permits would take place in short order and even said he was optimistic that the permits â€œcould be obtained by the end of the summer,â€ potentially clearing the way for work on the project to begin â€œin the coming fiscal year.â€
However, DCR Spokesperson Wendy Fox said that timetable might be a little optimistic.
â€œCertainly, DCR is delighted with the secretaryâ€™s announcement that an agreement on the appeals has been reaxched, and we will do everything we can to get this project going as quickly as possible,â€ said Fox. â€œHowever, it is possible that too much time has already passed (this year), to be able to start the project (in the coming fall). We are probably looking at a start date in the fall of 2008.â€
According to Bowles, the settlement with the Lobstermen includes assurances that the sand from the NOMES 1 site will only be used once, because of concerns about the cod habitat. Additionally, the DCR has agreed on a moratorium on dredging for the next five years and some funds will also be provided to study the marine habitat at the NOMES site further.