Padanaram harbor plan nearing completion as public input sessions wrap up

Feb 13, 2019

Residents had a chance to share feedback on a new plan for Padanaram at a meeting on Wednesday. The plan, developed by UMass Boston’s Urban Harbors Institute, outlines 14 topics affecting the harbor and its future, including everything from land use and public access to climate change and emergency responses.

Officials emphasized that the plan is a collection of recommendations, and the proposals will have to be approved and funded by the town.

In an introduction, Select Board member David Tatelbaum thanked the volunteers, town employees, and the representatives from the Harbors Institute, Kristin Uiterwyk and Steve Bliven, for their hard work, and said that it is up to the town to come to a consensus and put the plan into action.

“It may bring out the best in our town and it may bring out the worst in our town,” Tatelbaum said. “It’s up to us to do the job.”

Uiterwyk and Bliven presented a summary of the plan, which runs to nearly 200 pages. A top priority is clarifying the responsibilities of the many entities that have some jurisdiction over the harbor, including the Harbor Master, Department of Public Works, and the Conservation Commission, and enabling better communication between entities. Another related goal is making sure that plans for the harbor are prioritized and managed in an effective way.

Another communication related concern is emergency management. People who witness an emergency at the harbor might be unsure who to call for help: the Harbor Master, Fire District No. 1, or the police. There is not currently an oil spill coordinator in town.

The plan also emphasizes the need to be prepared for flooding events and climate change.

“If you live on the water, you’re gonna get wet eventually,” said Bliven, a Dartmouth resident, who cited storm surges and flooding as particularly concerning, especially as the sea level rises. According to the plan, the town should investigate and prepare for flooding events that could displace boats, submerge Smith Neck Road, or overflow the village’s storm drains.

Other priorities outlined are environmental.

“The idea came up that it would be great to restore water quality in Padanaram Harbor to a level that would sustain eel grass,” Uiterwyk said. Environmental concerns for the harbor include nitrogen pollution, pathogens, or bacteria that affect the biodiversity of the harbor and could close beaches and shellfish beds.

Other environmental goals include the preservation of open space and enforcement of existing bylaws with environmental impacts.

The plan also addresses commercial and recreational use of the harbor, the harbor’s navigability, recreational and commercial fishing access, and public access by boat, on foot, and by sight through the preservation of scenic vistas.

The Harbor Plan also extends beyond the water to Padanaram Village, addressing concerns like parking and the preservation of historic and cultural resources.

Several meeting attendees gave feedback. Stephen Taylor emphasized the importance of fixing the bridge.

“I really like the town the way it is,” another resident said, before expressing concerns about the town working to draw tourists.

The comment period for the plan is open through the end of the week. Comments can be emailed to Uiterwyk at Uiterwyk is available by phone at 617-287-5570.

The plan will be presented to the Planning Board at its February 25 meeting and to the Select Board in March.

The full plan is available on the town’s website.