Portsmouth’s new harbor plan to be heard Nov. 12

Under proposed plan, moored boaters in Blue Bill Cove would be required to capture greywater

By Jim McGaw
Posted 10/31/19

PORTSMOUTH — Boaters in either of the two mooring fields proposed for Blue Bill Cove would be required to capture their greywater discharges under the town’s new Harbor Management …

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Portsmouth’s new harbor plan to be heard Nov. 12

Under proposed plan, moored boaters in Blue Bill Cove would be required to capture greywater

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — Boaters in either of the two mooring fields proposed for Blue Bill Cove would be required to capture their greywater discharges under the town’s new Harbor Management Plan, which goes to a public hearing on Tuesday, Nov. 12.

Greywater is typically a boat’s untreated sink or shower water, in contrast to wastewater from a vessel’s head, which always requires a holding tank.

On Monday night, Town Planner Gary Crosby gave the Town Council an update on the draft plan, which he said has already received preliminary approval from the state Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC). 

There are only a couple of “minor” issues that still need to be fixed — one having to do with a particular mooring field and the other being a technical issue, he said.

The town’s old harbor plan dates from 1993, Mr. Crosby said.

“This is basically a complete re-write of the original harbor management plan. I’ve been working on the pain for quite some time,” he said.

The old plan had “mooring fields that basically went around the entire coastline of Portsmouth,” but the state says the new plan needs to be more restrictive, the planner said.

For CRMC approval of the plan, a water quality certificate from the R.I. Department of Environmental Management (DEM) was required. DEM looked at the plan and wrote a letter to the town containing recommended changes. 

“We have received that letter,” Mr. Crosby said. “The biggest stumbling block …  is (DEM’s concerns) about overnight use of moorings.” 

It’s a conversation, the planner said, the town has been having with DEM for years: Are boats congregating in a “destination” mooring field? Or, does the mooring field resemble more of a “parking lot” — a place merely to store boats? If it’s the latter, Mr. Crosby said DEM is not as concerned about greywater discharges.

DEM is concerned about Blue Bill Cove, however, because it’s designated as Class SA waters (used for commercial shellfishing). It’s also where, under the town’s proposed harbor plan, Portsmouth’s only two destination mooring fields (BBC-1 and BBC-2) are located.

In order to secure a water quality certificate from DEM, provisions were written into the plan for the harbormaster to implement an inspection program to certify that vessels in those fields are refitted to capture all greywater discharge, Mr. Crosby said.

Mr. Crosby said Potters Cove was originally considered a destination field, but it was dropped from that designation after discussions between the town and the state.

Agenda glitch

The public hearing on Nov. 12 was originally scheduled for Monday night, but had inadvertently been left off the council agenda, according to Council President Kevin Aguiar. It was properly advertised in the newspaper, he noted.

The council voted unanimously to place the item back on the agenda Monday, which Mr. Aguiar said was permissible under the state’s open meeting law since the item had already been advertised.

However, the council could only hear comments on the draft plan; members were not allowed to take any action under the law. They can do so at the Nov. 12 continuation of the hearing.

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