An accumulation of sand, silt and neglected paperwork have rendered the entrance to Lake Tashmoo impassable at times, Tisbury selectmen learned this week.

Due to permitting issues, the channel was not dredged during the off season, turning the entryway to the pristine saltwater lake into a tricky and potential trouble spot for boaters, just as the busy season begins.

Channel is three and a half feet deep at low tide, but should be seven feet deep, harbor master John Crocker said. — Mark Alan Lovewell

“I’ve been forced out of Tashmoo. I drop four and a half feet, and I can’t get out of Tashmoo with a full load, can’t do it,” Capt. David (Tubby) Medeiros, a commercial fisherman, told the selectmen at their meeting Tuesday night.

He was one of many unhappy mariners in attendance.

At low tide, the channel is currently about three and a half feet deep but ideally it should be closer to seven feet, Tisbury harbor master John Crocker said. As an emergency measure, Mr. Crocker said he has asked the Edgartown dredge committee about using that town’s dredge to clear some of the entrance next month, although he admitted the logistics of dredging at this time of year may prove impossible.

Tashmoo requires frequent dredging, town administrator John (Jay) Grande said, and this year’s string of winter northeasters made the needs only more urgent. Mr. Crocker said the entrance to the lake, which is home to about 290 boats, should be dredged every other year. The channel has not been fully dredged for more than two years.

Towns that want to dredge need permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state Division of Marine Fisheries, among other agencies. Shortly after he was appointed in 2016, Mr. Crocker said he realized that nearly all the Tashmoo dredge permits had expired. He said they were not fully renewed until November of last year, leaving a short window before the dredging season ended in January. The season is limited by spawning times of sea life, including winter flounder and horseshoe crabs.

Mr. Crocker said the lowest estimate to dredge the channel before January came in at $230,000, above the budgeted funds of about $190,000.

After missing the the January deadline, the town applied for a waiver to dredge in April but the request was denied. The town now has limited options if it wants to clear the channel before next fall. A March survey found that a minimum of 2,000 cubic yards of material would need to be removed in order to cut a path through the shallowest part of the channel. The low bid for that project was $180,000, Mr. Crocker said. There is a brief window around horseshoe crab spawning in late June. Speaking to the Gazette later, Mr. Crocker said he doubted the town would be able to act in time.

As a last resort, the harbor master has turned to Edgartown to ask to use their dredge next month.

“There is a possibility that they could come cut a path through that shallow spot and make the rest of the summer better,” he told selectmen.

He acknowledged that the likelihood is slim since the Edgartown dredge is not in the water for the summer and would require a crane from off-Island to be put in the water to complete the work. Mr. Crocker estimated that the cost of getting the dredge in and out of the water alone would be close to $24,000.

He also estimated that carving a pathway through the channel would take three to four days. A piping plover nest located near the channel could also complicate the process.

Town has asked Edgartown for use of its dredge but the logistics of trying to dredge in summer are daunting. — Mark Alan Lovewell

Edgartown dredge committee administrator Juliet Mulinare said this week that the town dredge operators usually only work during the winter and have other jobs during the summer. Tisbury does not currently have a dredge operator.

“It’s a high-volume time to be getting that equipment to that part of the Island,” Ms. Mulinare said.

Meanwhile, mariners continue to navigate the shallow passage to Tashmoo. Mr. Crocker said a boat ran aground last weekend, but he said most can enter and exit without difficulty, especially at high tide.

“The majority, not all, but the majority of the vessels that come in and out of Lake Tashmoo can transmit the channel at the existing depth,” Mr. Crocker said. He added that he had notified the public of the shallow area with signs and online notices.

But the Katharine Cornell Theatre was filled with of upset sailors and fishermen who came to share their frustration.

Kevin Nagle rents a mooring in Tashmoo from the town. He said he was concerned the channel could be dangerous.

“It’s embarrassing that a town that bases its history on maritime tradition would allow the waterways to be in such shape,” Mr. Nagle said. “My access getting out of there is limited quite a bit.”

Lynne Fraker said the dredging permits should never have been allowed to expire.

“The responsibility for that channel getting the way it is falls squarely on the shoulders of the town,” she said.

“The condition of the channel is in dire shape,” said Jeffrey Canha.

Boat owner MacAleer Schilcher raised concerns that the navigational buoys in the lake aren’t true.

“I know that channel better than most people,” he said. “If you don’t know when you leave Tashmoo, you go through the middle then hug left at the osprey’s nest, then a hard right, then you go back left, then you go right, then you go straight, then you go right. I know that, but most people don’t.”

Selectmen acknowledged the seriousness of the situation.

“It’s been a failure,” board chairman Tristan Israel said. “We need to fix it and make it better and we need to do it as soon as possible,” he added.

“This is not ideal,” Mr. Crocker said. “Ideal would have been to do the dredging in the fall and early winter, but that was not possible.”

Members of the dredge committee said they hope to do comprehensive dredging next fall.

Selectmen also discussed the possibility of partnering with Oak Bluffs to buy dredging equipment in the future.

“We do spend quite a bit of money in both communities every year,” Mr. Grande said.

The town also still needs permits to dredge the Vineyard Haven harbor.