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Pleasant Bay Watershed Permit

The Pleasant Bay watershed consists of 21,600 acres located in four towns: Orleans (41%), Chatham (30%), Harwich (13%) and Brewster (16%). The resource management plan identifies nitrogen from watershed sources as a major threat to water quality in Pleasant Bay. The Alliance’s watershed planning efforts focus on regional solutions to reduce watershed nutrient loading to the Pleasant Bay system.

The historic Watershed Permit sets the stage for effectively addressing nitrogen pollution and helping safeguard the life of the Bay. The permit outlines the steps the Towns will take individuals and collectively to address nitrogen pollution, which is the biggest threat to the health of the Bay. The permit is the result of a collaboration of the Towns of Brewster , Chatham, Harwich and Orleans, Pleasant Bay Alliance, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, US EPA and Cape Cod Commission.

The nitrogen removal technologies proposed under the permit include a combination of traditional technologies such as sewers, and non-traditional approaches such as shellfish aquaculture to be implemented over forty years. The Watershed Permit will allow the towns to obtain permit authorization to use non-traditional technologies, and also provides a process for crediting towns with the nitrogen removal that actually occurs.

It is an honor that the four towns that share the Pleasant Bay watershed are the first in Massachusetts to receive a Watershed Permit and it would not have been possible without the vision and support provided by town officials, volunteers and Town Meeting voters who recognize the value of working together to preserve our beautiful shared resource.

The Alliance serves as regional coordinator for selected Watershed Permit implementation actions. In this capacity, the Alliance prepares and submits the required annual reports to Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the Cape Cod Commission. The following Watershed Permit Guidebook provides information about the process of developing a watershed permit, and insights on issues that multiple towns need to be ready to address if participating in a watershed permit. The guidebook also describes some of the innovations that were facilitated by the Pleasant Bay Watershed Permit. All of the pertinent documents and reports mentioned in the guidebook are provided below.

Watershed Permit Documents:
Pleasant Bay Watershed Permit
Pleasant Bay Targeted Watershed Management Plan
Pleasant Bay Watershed Permit Intermunicipal Agreement
Letter of application to Massachusetts DEP
Determination of Consistency with the 208 Plan

Pre-permit Composite Analysis and Town Resolution:
Pleasant Bay Composite Nitrogen Management Analysis 2017
Resolution of the Towns Sharing the Watershed of Pleasant Bay

Watershed Permit Annual Reports to MassDEP and Cape Cod Commission
2021 Pleasant Bay Watershed Permit Annual Report
2020 Pleasant Bay Watershed Permit Annual Report
2019 Pleasant Bay Watershed Permit Annual Report

Regional Watershed Permit Implementation Project funded by Southeast New England Program Watershed Grants:
The Alliance has received funding from the Southeast New England Program (SNEP) Watershed Grants in 2018 ($250,000) and 2020 ($132,050) to support Watershed Permit implementation. Funding has been used to support multiple projects including an update of the Massachusetts Estuaries Project Linked Model. Information on SNEP-funded implementation projects is provided below.

SNEP WG18 Task 1A. Municipal I/A Program:
Fact Sheet
Final SNEP Task 1A Report_200730 210203
Implementation of an Onsite Septic System Treatment Program for the Pleasant Bay Watershed