Further Review Needed For Water Skiing Area

            Summer may be over, but issues related to where boaters may engage in water skiing and tubing activities in Mattapoisett Harbor are still being debated. That was the case on September 26 when the Mattapoisett Marine Advisory Board met. In attendance was Harbormaster Jamie McIntosh.

            Months ago during the July 25 meeting, the MAB discussed the issue of whether or not an area located in the inner harbor near the Shinning Tides beach, locally designated as an area where water skiing could take place, was actually an area the United States Coast Guard (USCG) claims as anchorage space. During that meeting, then Harbormaster Jill Simmons said that the federal designation of anchorage superseded anything done at the local level. The problem associated with water skiing is that of boats exceeding the 25 mile-per-hour speed limit in that location and creating wakes in the mooring field.

            On September 26, the issue was again debated. Chairman Carlos DeSousa said he thought that putting a speed restriction would help. But McIntosh said he would be hesitant to do that. There ensued a discussion that included the idea of mandating that water skiers and tubers use the outer harbor area instead of being so close to shore. But McIntosh thought otherwise.

            “I wouldn’t want to send the kids out there further from shore,” said McIntosh. He pondered that maybe a speed restriction would help, but said that even a boat motoring at a low rate of speed threw a big wake. “It requires more study.”

            McIntosh said that if he has more staff next summer, staff that would be deployed on the water, they could monitor the harbor better. “We could shut it down,” if boaters were found creating big wake. With a “significant presence” on the water, said McIntosh, things might improve.

            Yet that wouldn’t solve the issue of whether or not the recreational space was actually an anchorage area.

            MAB member Bob Moore said, “We need to understand the interaction between local, state, and federal law… There has to be a proper reading of those altogether.” Moore said he wanted to explore it further and that he wants to find out if there had been any case law that might help clarify the matter.

            A USCG designated anchorage area is a place where boats and ships can safely drop anchor.

            McIntosh said he would look into the issue.

            In other matters, the condition of Long Wharf with respect to its ability to withstand heavy loads such as cranes and oil trucks was discussed. This concern sprang up as the board was talking about boaters placing large containers of fuel on floating docks as they prepared to head out to their moored boats. McIntosh said that practice should be limited to one jerrycan. He said that when large fuel trucks are servicing vessels tied to the wharves, the Fire Department should be alerted in the event a fuel spill occurs.

            The problem is related to fuel vapors in the air, which, if concentrated, can explode with the introduction of an ignition source. McIntosh said that if a can of fuel went into the water or if there were a spill from a fuel truck, the Fire Department would be better equipped to contain the spill.

            The members then dove into the condition of Long Wharf. McIntosh said, “We shouldn’t have trucks or cranes down there.”

DeSousa noted that marina operators sometimes pull the masts of large sailboats from boats tied up at the end of the wharf. McIntosh said it was a “judgment call” on the part of the marina whether to pull masts on the water or once the boat was out.

            The board concurred that the cranes were too heavy and might be in harm’s way at the end of the historic wharf. DeSousa suggested that marina owners be invited to the next meeting of the MAB to discuss the matter.

            “We have a duty to tell them they are using it at their own risk,” said Moore.

            “This will be on my radar now,” said McIntosh.

            Also during the meeting, McIntosh suggested that the staff needs more intensive training handling the pump-out boat. He said that such training should take place in the spring before the boating season gets underway. According to him, the department is averaging 30 pump-out requests were per week, and that an online form and other pump-out information is available on the Town’s website www.mattapoisett.net.

            The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Marine Advisory Board is scheduled for October 31 at 7:00 pm in the Town Hall conference room.

Mattapoisett Marine Advisory Board

By Marilou Newell

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