DARTMOUTH- The town Finance Committee held a meeting Tuesday night to discuss the salt marsh restoration project proposed for Round Hill Beach in Dartmouth.

The Conservation Commission and Board of Parks and Recreation joined the committee at the Dartmouth Town Hall to discuss monetary, regulatory, and safety issues that could arise as a result the projects altering of the landscape.

A major concern the Finance Committee and the Park Board share is if the town should use the state funding it needs to help pay for the $5-million project. If the Town of Dartmouth accepts funding the committees say they fear the beach parking lot will be forced to open up to out of town residents.

“All we know is every time we’ve taken state money for any project it’s opened it up to out of town residents and that’s just one of the many problems we have,” Park Board member Jim Viera said. “It’s a $5-million dollar project. I’m not convinced if the benefits outweigh the costs.”

The Parks and Recreation Department also has public safety concerns about the project, specifically with the relocation of the channel of water at the salt marsh that leads to the ocean. The channel waters currently flow at a rate of 3-feet per second which the department fears could change to a more dangerous pace once the channel naturally relocates. This led to discussions of whether or not to provide fencing around the channel or to pay an estimated $16,000-$30,000 to staff the area with a lifeguard.

Mike O’Reilly of the Conservation Commission says “the flow rate in that channel will not change when it is naturally relocated.”

The Town of Dartmouth would also have to comply with several state and federal environmental regulations if they were to go through with the salt marsh restoration. The most important of these regulations is that the town must establish a beach management plan, an outline of allowed and restricted beach regarding the conservation of wildlife.

The Conservation Commission and O’Reilly are for the restoration plan and say that “the town is in violation of state law right now” for its lack of having a beach management plan.

Before closing out the meeting, the Finance Committee said it was not yet comfortable enough with the restoration project to recommend its approval. Committee Chairman David Tatelbaum says that too little is known about the restoration project and that too many questions remain unanswered.

"We'll talk tonight about it in our group and the two other committees will do the same, and then we'll get some feedback and see where we go from there. But our job is to advise and to listen,” Tatelbaum said.

Further action on the salt marsh restoration project is expected to be pushed back until the upcoming town meeting on October 17th.

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