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Cedar Pond Gets Moving

January 11, 2010

December 1, 2008

Recent work on the culvert under Rock Harbor Road that connects Rock Harbor Creek to Cedar Pond has led to a sharp drop in water level in the pond. Locals who have observed the pond for decades are scratching their heads and voicing concern over the changes.

The drainage was preceded by a fish kill which resulted in dozens of oxygen-starved white perch showing up on the shore dead, as well as a wayward striped bass. Coverage of the event in the Cape Cod Times and The Cape Codder attributed the kill to astronomical high tides bringing a flush of cold salt water into the pond, which, possibly combined with strong winds, resulted in an inversion that left the fish without oxygen. No mention was made of the ongoing work on the Rock Harbor Road culvert, which included at least one period in which the flow of water to the pond was impeded. Residents with views of the Cedar Pond side of the culvert reported a “Niagra-like” rush of water into the pond shortly thereafter, strong enough to produce a froth visible from Locust Road and Route 6.

While fish kills are unfortunate, they are not unheard of. Locals are now more concerned about the rapid loss of water. Old timers dislike change almost more than fee hikes and barometric drops, and this shift is no exception. Questions raised at early morning coffee counters, bait shops and parking lots reflect their uneasiness in seeing the haggard pond sink.

“What happens in the winter if there’s a deep freeze? Don’t you think the fish that are left will move to the few deep spots in the pond and suck up all the oxygen and die?”

“Will the pond have tides now?”

“Why didn’t they use those planks that are in the culvert on the pond side to set the minimum water level?”

“Who monitors these things?”

Most commonly heard is the worry that the 15-acre, 15-foot deep pond, which had come back from being a poor fishing pond to supporting some of the best fishing seen at that spot in 20 or 30 years, will now suffer a return to its barren past. Somehow the fish had survived the nitrogen loading effects of a large number of cormorants roosting on the high tension wires above the water, run-off from the highway, a substantial number of septic systems leeching into the pond, and the resulting algal blooms. How they flourished under such conditions is any marine biologist’s guess. The Orleans Marine and Fresh Water Quality Task Force noted in their 2007 report to the town that the pond was a “highly impaired ecosystem.” The details can be viewed on the Town of Orleans website.

More information about town plans for Cedar Pond can be found at the Orleans Pond Coalition.

Amid local concern for the health of the pond some hopefulness was expressed. Will a heavier flush of saltwater from Cape Cod Bay revitalize the pond and lead to greater numbers of fish? Only time, bobbers and a few hooks baited with chubs will tell.

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