Oak Bluffs plans to install a new courtesy dock in the town’s harbor this summer that will double as an incubator for baby shellfish. 

The select board voted Tuesday to allow the harbor and shellfish departments to move forward with a plan to install a new dock near Our Market, replacing a pair of slips that sit there now. The dock was envisioned by harbor master Emily deBettencourt to address concerns about increases to mooring fees and the extension of higher summer rates later into the season. 

The new dock will give boaters a place to drop off passengers or tie up for a few minutes to grab food or other supplies from nearby shops. 

Right now, if the harbor is full, the only place to drop people off is at the fuel dock, a less than ideal situation, Ms. deBettencourt said. 

“You can also imagine the fuel dock is busy when we are at capacity so it’d be an extra space for accessibility to the town,” she said. 

Shellfish constable Donovan McElligatt said he was able to find docks that have decking underneath to hold an upweller – a system that pumps ocean water into individual tanks to help baby shellfish grow in a protected environment. 

This system attached to a dock meets the need for nursery space while also allowing the upweller to be accessible by land, Mr. McElligatt said. The dock could also remind people of the Island’s shellfishing heritage.

“The harbor is the heart of the town in the summer and shellfish are a big cultural part of the Island and the town,” he said. “But lots of tourists or visitors don’t know about it. This is a nice chance to be able to kind of put that in front of their faces.” 

The select board was enthusiastic about the proposal, though it did want to eventually see more details on the layout and cost. 

“I think it’s a great idea,” said board member Jason Balboni. “It solves a lot of the problems that people had with the increase in price.” 

The board also approved creating a new discounted book of 10 daily mooring passes. The passes will cost $300 and could cut down the number of transactions the harbor master has to make. 

The board also put in place a new program that allows residents to use a slip for $200 during the MV striped bass and bluefish fishing derby. Fishermen have historically been able to use the harbor for free during the derby, but the town’s harbor committee sought the one-time payment to deter people from abusing the free-slip policy. 

Mr. Balboni wanted to see the $200 fee extended to all residents, not just derby participants and voted against the proposal along with fellow member Dion Alley. The motion still carried 3-2.