It is good to see that the Citizens for the Protection of Waquoit Bay is being brought back to life. The organization, which was started late in 1981, had been quiescent for a while but the Waquoit Bay area is every bit as special as it was more than 30 years ago, with its varied ecosystem of tributaries, marshes and barrier beach.
The work ahead of the organization is different today. Environmental protection is still a goal, but restoration has been added to its mission statement and is perhaps its more urgent goal.
The Citizens for the Protection of Waquoit Bay was not the first to recognize the value of the bay. Several years before the group formed, the state named it as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern.
It was quite a process. There were well-attended hearings and a lot of discussion, most of it about dredging, boating, water-skiing, docks and development of land abutting the water. All of it was about what uses should be allowed in and around the bay.
Conspicuously absent was mention of nitrogen loading. The term did enter the environmental lexicon soon after though but the ramifications and magnitude of nitrogen loading were apparently not well understood. When in 1983 the Citizens for the Protection of Waquoit Bay took a stand against a 51-acre subdivision on Hamblin Pond, which feeds Waquoit Bay, an engineer maintained that all the nitrogen from septic systems would be intercepted and decomposed in wetlands before it could reach the pond.
The major cause for the citizens group at that time was the imminent development of Washburns Island. It hired a Boston lawyer and mobilized area residents and educated them on the permitting process. The state fortunately stepped in and bought the island and a large tract of South Cape Beach. And later, the organization continued to advocate for environmental protection of the bay and open space purchases and was instrumental in the acquisition of the Quashnet River valley.
Nitrogen loading is today the greatest problem affecting Waquoit Bay, and Citizens for the Protection of Waquoit Bay intends to be very involved by keeping on top of developments in the wastewater management plan, raising public awareness and working to reduce road runoff and discharge of waste from boats into the bay.
Citizens for the Protection of Waquoit Bay was an important player in the efforts to keep Waquoit Bay the special place that it is in years past, and its revitalization promises to reassert itself in that role again today. It’s a welcome rebirth.