Drilling at Punkhorn Stirs Up More Gooseberry Bridge Controversy

The next hearing regarding a proposed bridge to Gooseberry Island from Punkhorn Point Road is scheduled for this week’s meeting, August 28, of the Mashpee Conservation Commission, but drilling at the site on August 14 caused major concern for abutters and members of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.

The tribe operates a 4.6-acre shellfish grant around the 3.9-acre island, and the sight of a drilling crew boring into the soil prompted tribal leaders to contact officials at Mashpee Town Hall. 

“Yes, we did get a call from the tribe, but we determined that the conservation commission had given the applicant approval to conduct soil testing boring for a structural analysis report,” Mashpee Town Manager Joyce M. Mason said.

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Mashpee Conservation Agent Andrew R. McManus said that the applicant did contact his office to ask if a permit was needed for the drilling. There was no need for one, since the applicant was fulfilling an existing request from the commission. In June, the commission requested that there be a structural analysis completed to determine whether the bridge would hold up in a storm, and whether the soil could withstand the structure.

“In hindsight it would have been appropriate to notify the tribe of the day the drilling was going to take place. I don’t blame the tribe for panicking. If I wasn’t aware of what was going on, I would have felt the same way. I should have been there,” Mr. McManus said.

Mr. McManus inspected the site on August 18 and said that he did not see any alteration of the salt marsh or any land containing shellfish.

While the conservation commission continues to mull the permitting process for the bridge, the question of ownership on the landward side of the bridge has yet to be officially determined.

“It is the purview of the commission in this case to review impacts of the Wetlands Protection Act, and not determine property ownership, even though we have some proof that the applicant does own some of the land. Land ownership would never be grounds for the conservation commission to deny a project. If we approve this project, the applicant could not proceed until that ownership issue was fully resolved,” Mr. McManus said, adding that there are some other issues that need to be resolved, including several that have been highlighted in an environmental engineering report commissioned by abutters on Punkhorn Point Road.

Tribal officials declined to comment on the matter, only to say through a spokesperson that the issue is “in the hands of attorneys.”

The next hearing on the proposed bridge is scheduled for 6 PM on Thursday, August 28, at Mashpee Town Hall.

During a phone call August 21, Brian J. Wall, the attorney representing SN Trust, the applicant, said that there is a good chance that he may request a continuance of the hearing to allow more time for completion of the structural analysis report.

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