2016-10-14 / Front Page

Cape to take hard look at coastline

By Wm. Duke Harrington
Staff Writer


Lobster boats sit moored in Cape Elizabeth's Kettle Cove, bound to be one of the primary areas of study for a newly formed town harbor committee, charged with updating a study of coastal access issues last conducted in 1988. (Duke Harrington photo) Lobster boats sit moored in Cape Elizabeth's Kettle Cove, bound to be one of the primary areas of study for a newly formed town harbor committee, charged with updating a study of coastal access issues last conducted in 1988. (Duke Harrington photo) CAPE ELIZABETH — For the first time in nearly 30 years, Cape Elizabeth will conduct a formal study of its coastline to address issues of public access.

At its most recent meeting, Oct. 5, the town council voted unanimously to create an ad hoc harbors committee, appropriating $15,000 from the town’s undesignated fund balance to cover its operation.

“One of the reasons we need the money is that we don’t have any internal expertise in some of the areas the committee is going to be looking at,” said Town Manager Michael McGovern. “We’re really looking for someone to work with us since I have not been able to readily identify a staff person who has the knowledge and expertise.”

A lobster boats sits in Kettle Cove, an area that will fall under the watchful gaze of more than just waterfowl over the next year, thanks to a new harbor committee recently formed by the town. (Duke Harrington photo)A lobster boats sits in Kettle Cove, an area that will fall under the watchful gaze of more than just waterfowl over the next year, thanks to a new harbor committee recently formed by the town. (Duke Harrington photo)Asked by Councilor James Garvin if Harbormaster Ian Anderson could be tapped to lead the committee, McGovern said that although Anderson works primarily as the marine resource officer for Scarborough, the committee will need greater technical expertise than he can offer.

“He could be of some assistance, but if you look all of the charges of this committee, they don’t all relate to his type of work. You really need someone that knows the science and all those issues,” McGovern said.

The primary charge of the new committee will be to update the town’s Coastal Waters and Harbors Ordinance, adopted in 1989 as a direct result of the last harbor study and last updated in 2005.

The committee is also expected to update maps utilized by the harbormaster showing potential locations for moorings and to create an inventory of public water access sites. Beyond that, the biggest challenge for the committee will be the same as when the first harbors report was completed in September 1988 – to determine options for boat access in the Kettle Cove/Crescent Beach State Park area and to develop a long-range plan that will serve both commercial fisherman and pleasure boaters.

Technically named Seal Cove, but more popularly known as Kettle Cove, the area between McKenney Point and Richmond Island’s East Point is owned by the state. The cove is considered Cape’s primary harbor, however, and the town maintains a public access point.

“More and more issues keep coming up over access to the water. So, it seemed like it was about time (to update the study),” said Councilor Caitlin Jordan, noting that the original report was written when she was just 5 years old.

According to Jordan, complaints from residents who live near Kettle Cove have been on the rise in recent years. For at least the last three years, she said, about 10 lobstermen have been meeting to talk about issues related to the harbor, indicating the need for town action.

When raising the issue late last year in workshops on setting council goals for the year, Jordan said she is concerned ongoing friction could squeeze out fishermen and the history of Kettle Cove as a working waterfront.

“Cape is a fishing community, and I want to preserve that for future generations,” she said, at the time.

In 2011 the town held a forum on harbors, at which lobstermen who work the waters off Kettle Cove asked the town and the state to unclog congestion on the one usable boat landing in Two Lights State Park, located in a section adjacent to Crescent Beach known as Boat Cove.

Lobstermen complained at the time of a gaggle of canoes and kayaks, along with associated camping gear, lined up waiting to launch at the same time they were trying to earn a living. Too often, they said, someone with no understanding of the tides would try to launch a pleasure boat at the wrong time, resulting in a stuck truck that backed up working access even further.

In addition to the loss of access points over the decades as the state has taken a hands-off approach to the lands it took more than a century ago to create Cape’s state parks, which has forced fishermen and recreational boaters into the same dwindling number of launch sites, other concerns raised at the time included old moorings in the cove that create a hazard for lobster boats, and abandoning traps, which pile up high enough to block some parking spaces.

The new committee will have five members, including two councilors and three residents. The council will likely name its two representatives when making annual appointments, soon after inauguration of new councilors in early December. The town has set a Nov. 4 deadline for applications, which may be filled out on the town website, or picked up at town hall.

McGovern said he expects the council will advertise for and hire a consultant in December with the goal of staging an initial committee meeting in early January.

“Depending on what we get back from proposals and the cost, we might actually hire someone from the community to come in and take the minutes,” McGovern said. “We haven’t been able to find someone on staff who has the time. I’m not dumping something on people who already have too much work to do, or don’t have the expertise.”

A final report of the committee, with recommended ordinance changes, is due to the council by Dec. 31, 2017.

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