GSP to update its plans

Thu, 09/07/2017 - 9:45pm

The Block Island Times conducted the following interview with Sven Risom, President of the Committee for the Great Salt Pond, to talk about the CGSP’s annual meeting, which takes place on Sunday at the BIMI Center.

Q: The Committee for the Great Salt Pond is about to have its annual meeting, scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 10 at 4 p.m., which the public is invited to attend. Can you tell us a little bit about the Committee, how many members it has, when it was formed and what its mission is?

A: The Great Salt Pond, with its shorelines and wetlands, provides Block Island with a beautiful sheltered harbor that is a haven for recreational boating. It also provides a rich, diverse, and fragile ecosystem that deserves protection from the type of over-development that has ruined many other New England harbors. The CGSP mission is to protect and enhance the environmental quality of the Great Salt Pond and its watershed. We have hundreds of members. The Committee for the Great Salt Pond is one of Block Island’s most active environmental organizations, and was founded in response to a 1986 proposal to build a large ferry terminal inside the pond. The construction of this terminal with its dredging, bulkheading, landfill, and paving, and the subsequent introduction of cars, trucks, passengers, and freight to this area, would have had a devastating environmental impact. It would have forever changed the nature of the Great Salt Pond’s recreational boating character.

Q: How important is the GSP to the Island’s economy?

A: The Great Salt Pond is one of the Island’s most vibrant economic engines as stated in the Comprehensive Plan. Boaters visit from around the world and eat, shop, and stay in hotels. With thousands of boaters visiting the island, the pond is a critical resource we cannot overlook. As importantly, shellfishing is a major island activity for visitors and citizens, as well as revenue for the island. Mooring rentals are also important revenue for the Town of New Shoreham. We cannot take the pond for granted. The CGSP works hard to protect the pond by helping to ensure a balance of commercial, recreational and environmental activities — all important to the health of the island.

Q: Can you give us an overview of the Pond in terms of what kind of activities take place there, how many boats it can accommodate, and what is done to maintain the health of the pond?

A: There is a broad array of activities on the pond from shellfishing, kayaking, sailing, and swimming, to marinas, restaurants, mooring facilities and commercial operations. The pond encompasses many ecosystems from Type One waters with major birding and shellfish activities, to fully active channels and recreational areas. The CGSP has one of the longest running water monitoring databases in the country as we have been studying the waters of the Great Salt Pond for well over 20 years. We look at nutrient levels, dissolved oxygen, salinity, etc., in and outside the pond (at the mouth of the channel), as well as the tributaries running into the pond. This is an important point for the CGSP is not only focused on the pond itself, but also the watershed that runs into the pond. The CGSP has been very active on storm water runoff as well as waste water management, for what goes into the ground in the watershed can end up in the pond. So monitoring the tributaries that feed the GSP is very important.

Q: What local, state and/or federal agencies have jurisdiction over the pond?

A: The pond is an interesting intersection of many local, state and federal organizations and interests, including the Coastal Resources Management Council, The Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and The Town of New Shoreham. The CRMC and TNS are the most important organizations as together they have ownership of he pond.

Q: We understand the Harbors Management Plan is under review. Can you tell us if there are any major changes to the plan, and how they may impact the Pond?

A: The Harbors Management Plan is a very important document that has not officially been updated sine the mid-1990s for a number of technical reasons. It is now time and the Harbors Department has begun to put forth a proposed plan to the Town Council. The first draft of the plan was introduced to the Town Council this summer and includes many changes and revisions. The CGSP thinks it is very important for the community to discuss and review the plan given the importance of the GSP to the island. For example, types of moorings and mooring fields are being discussed, rights of land owners that abut the pond, facilities required to support the pond, disaster management planning, shellfishing, aquaculture, the recreational area, and water types (level of protection for the land) are a few of the subjects under review. We believe it is important for all citizens to become knowledgeable and active about the Pond so we can all make sure the new Harbors Management Plan best supports Block Island as a healthy community.

Q: When and where is the annual meeting?

A: The CGSP Annual Meeting will be on Sunday, Sept. 10 at BIMI. We are honored to have two speakers: Steve Land, Harbormaster, who will give an update on the Pond during the summer of 2017, a top-line of the Harbors Management Plan and discuss the dinghy issue before the town. Dan Prentiss, the CGSP’s counsel, will provide an update on the Champlin’s Marina case and provide some initial insights regarding the proposed Harbors Management Plan.

This will be a great meeting and we encourage the island to attend — come listen, and learn.

The interview was conducted and edited by Lars Trodson