Help is on the way to improve water circulation in Farm Pond in Oak Bluffs.
The town learned this week that it had received an $80,000 grant to complete the engineering and permitting for a wider culvert, intended to help restore the health of the pond by allowing a greater exchange with the sea.
The grant comes from a partnership program between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Restore America’s Estuaries, a nonprofit organization. A report issued last year by the Massachusetts Estuaries Project called for a significantly widened culvert under Seaview avenue to better flush the pond and mitigate the influence of nitrogen from the surrounding watershed. Nitrogen promotes algae growth, which blocks sunlight to important eelgrass beds and takes up oxygen in the water column.
The grant will help pay for widening the culvert from four to 16 feet.
“If the Mass Estuaries Project models are correct, it will reduce the nitrogen load into that pond back to being a healthy pond,” said Oak Bluffs shellfish constable David Grunden this week.
The fix for Farm Pond is admittedly easier than the Island’s other estuaries where town leaders are considering millions of dollars of sewering to address the problems with nitrogen, but the project still requires a significant amount of additional funding; in all it is expected to cost $800,000. Mr. Grunden said he is confident that the project will be able to attract state and federal funding.
“We’re hoping with this grant to have it honest and goodness shovel-ready for this fall, then we’ll be looking for additional funding and if we’re very fortunate, we might be able to start the construction a year from this fall,” he said.
If the project is completed it will represent the first full restoration of an Island estuary.
“Not right away but in the long term we think we’ll be able to have it open and manage it for additional shellfisheries,” said Mr. Grunden.