BOURNE — Eliminating the ban on resident dock construction after 20 years has ushered in a new era for the Conservation Commission.
The first dock request before the commission, off Squeteague Harbor in Cataumet, is complex, and review is underway.
Commission members have been preparing for a possible “onslaught” of applications, remembering two decades ago when dock hearings were lengthy, cumbersome and often controversial with shellfishing areas to document and protect, Commission Chairman Robert Gray said before the Jan. 5 meeting.
Those hearings led to some shoreline structures that proved successful, while others did not.
One dock crumbled under shifting tidal pack ice at Red Brook Harbor. Another disintegrated at Queen Sewell Cove off Buttermilk Bay, north of the Cape Cod Canal.
The moratorium on residential dock applications was lifted by the commission on July 21.
The town population has not changed much in two decades, hovering at 20,000 residents. But there are more shoreline homes now; some near high tide marks, some in low-lying areas and others where there is barely enough water for a dock, ramp and float with sufficient depth for a boat.
More:Questions arise over dock, pier proposal in Cotuit Bay
Advances in dock design and engineering, along with more durable, pressure-treated materials, are now a consideration in new construction.
If all goes well in three levels of dock review, Gray said, property owners should nonetheless anticipate applications taking 18 months for final approval and a construction start.
A lot depends on having a knowledgeable consultant, Gray said. “Someone who can explain three levels of review to property owners, then proceed to the commission after design and engineering and review of the regulations.”
The review for a new dock begins with a commission exploration of project details and location. A second session would solicit board and public opinion and address any missing information, such as an area shellfish survey going to the state Division of Marine Fisheries. That cost is borne by the dock applicant.
The third section, Gray said, involves completing the review with a vote to issue a project order of conditions. The order would be issued in a fourth meeting.
More:Chatham Fish Pier project had defective steel sheets. Here’s what is next.
The proposal then proceeds to state Chapter 91 licensing review at the waterways division of the state Department of Environmental Protection. Within a week of that filing, the proposal can also undergo an Army Corps of Engineers navigation review.
“If concerns emerge with the DEP or Army Corps, the project will return to the commission,” Gray said. “So, the entire process could take 18 months if all goes well.”
Conservation Agent Stephanie Fitch received two applications as of early February.
“My guess is these reviews will take a while,” Fitch said. “I can tell you a lot of administrative review occurs before the project is even heard at a public hearing.”
More:$2.3M dock project awarded in Chatham
The expected high interest from the public and property abutters may add time to hearings, she said.
The commission is reviewing dock requests for the former Animal Rescue League summer camp property at a shallow Squeteague Harbor cove in Cataumet. Questions so far relate to sufficient water depth, initial dock location and three area moorings.
The second application is filed by owners at 122 Wings Neck Road in Pocasset. That structure would include lumber and flow-through decking.
Applications must address potential dock breakups, seasonal dismantling of ramps, removal of floats and possible storm-debris damage to municipal resources and equipment.
Keep connected with the Cape. Download our free app