Great Pond Rises During Storm:

The elevation of Edgartown Great Pond increased by 0.6 ft during the storm, rising to 4.38 LMSL.

While several neighboring south shore coastal ponds were breached during the of the strong storm that began on Sunday, December 17th, 2023, the barrier beach of Edgartown Great Pond remains intact. The elevation of Edgartown Great Pond rose dramatically as a result . As of Wednesday, December 20th, the elevation was 4.38 feet above Local Mean Sea Level (LMSL). This ~0.6 foot rise in the water was due to a combination of precipitation and overwash.

Edgartown Shellfish Constable, Rob Morrison, reports that the Town of Edgartown plans to cut Edgartown Great Pond to the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday, December 23rd, 2023.

Drone imagery captured by photographer and drone pilot, David Welch shows the dramatic re-shaping of the barrier beach and flooding around Edgartown Great Pond.

Natural Breaches Across South Shore:

The late fall storm that began on Sunday, December 17th, brought rain and wind through Monday. The pounding waves continued into mid-week, overwashing the barrier beach and flowing into south-facing ponds.

Long Cove Pond, West Tisbury, MA

Long Cove Pond, a freshwater ecosystem was opened to the Atlantic Ocean during a December storm.

At least three natural breaches have been confirmed along the south shore at Chilmark Pond, Tisbury Great Pond, and Long Cove Pond. Both Chilmark and Tisbury Great Pond are brackish ecosystems that are cut to the Atlantic Ocean several times per year. Long Cove Pond, located within the Long Point Wildlife Refuge is a freshwater ecosystem. There have been reports of fish kills and dead tadpoles, likely a result of the sudden influx of seawater, shocking these freshwater species.

Chilmark Pond, Chilmark, MA

The barrier beach of Edgartown Great Pond remains intact, but the strong storm brought over a foot of water into the Pond through a combination of precipitation and overwash. Edgartown Shellfish Constable, Rob Morrison, reports that the Town of Edgartown plans to cut Edgartown Great Pond to the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday, December 23rd, 2023.

Cut News & Photos

EdGartowN Great Pond

Ecological Time Capsule:

As the sun sets on 2021, EGP’s cut is nearly closed – December, 16, 2021. Photo courtesy of David Bouck.

When you are alone on the shores of one of the Island’s great ponds, do you ever feel that you are apart from time, as if you are experiencing a nature of centuries past? To be able to step away from the normal confines of time and technology and simply experience the pleasure and purity of time in nature is something precious and rare indeed.  The conservation of open, undeveloped spaces as well as a conscious choice by Island leaders to preserve the rural character of the Island has made Martha’s Vineyard somewhat of an ecological time capsule. 

While most coastal ponds in the northeast are struggling for survival, many of the Island’s great ponds not only give us reason to be hopeful for restoration—some of them are even thriving. Take Edgartown Pond for example, eelgrass and widgeon grass can be found in nearly every region of the pond and this vibrant ecosystem is teeming with diverse life. Tisbury Great Pond, although it has challenges with water clarity, still boasts a healthy phytoplankton community, floral diversity, and abundant waterfowl.  Chilmark Pond, although it has experienced cyanobacteria blooms in the past, did not experience a single bloom in 2021.  By contrast, comparable ponds that dot the southern coast of Long Island experience annual harmful algal blooms. 

At low pond, the sluiceway is cut off from the main pond by a large sand bar.

Because the pressures of development and ecological change have been slower to manifest on Martha’s Vineyard, our ponds are like Cape Cod ponds 30-50 years ago.  How fortunate we are to be able to learn from our neighbors on the Cape and Long Island and to make changes now, while there is still much life in our coastal ponds. 

The Island depends on clean and healthy coastal waters to feed families and support the local economy. Our coastal ponds are rare, ecologically fragile treasures whose preservation and restoration are vital to the resilience and long-term sustainability of the Island community. Elevated nitrogen and phosphorus levels, rising temperatures, and other challenges associated with climate change are problems for which every pond on Martha’s Vineyard must prepare.

The solution to protecting our ponds is neither singular nor static.  Restoration is a continual process of adapting the changing needs of a living system.  Please join Great Pond Foundation in our efforts to restore the ecological health of our coastal ponds through scientifically informed management, public education, and community collaboration.  It is going to take an Island of informed and engaged community members to protect our precious ponds.  

With the unique gift of foresight, now is the time to time to act to protect our vulnerable waters. The choices we make as an Island community over the next few years will shape the fate of our waters for generations. Time is of the essence, if we don’t act now, our ecological time capsule will be no more. To preserve our coastal ponds, we need to limit and reduce the nutrient pollution (nitrogen and phosphorus) within our watersheds; we need to think strategically about development with ecological integrity, focusing on sustainability of our community and our waters; and we need to work together to create Island-wide solutions, because waters and watersheds do not follow town boundaries. 

Reasons to Support GPF in 2021:

  • You attended the Island Ponds Community Workshop and want more seminars
    • ~80 pond managers, scientists, town officials, concerned citizens attended the Excess Nitrogen & Land Use Change Workshop
  • You used GPF’s Cyanobacteria Resource or MV CYANO program
    • MV CYANO: >4500 hits, >1800 users, from 12 countries
    • Cyanobacteria Resource: >1300 hits, >540 users, from 41 countries
  • You enjoy GPF’s e-newsletters or Instagram feed
    • >330 Island pond community members subscribe our newsletters
    • ~1000 followers stay up to date with Island pond news
  • You visited our website to learn about Great Pond science in 2021
    • ~43,000 hits, ~5000 users, from >100 countries
  • You had questions about water quality and pond health and your found answers on our website, through social media, by emailing our scientists, or through our presentations
  • You appreciate science-based education and advocacy for the Island’s great ponds

Your support enables GPF to continue advocating for the science-based management of the Island’s great ponds and to enhance our understanding of the sources of nutrient pollution causing impairment, specifically recent algal blooms, and ultimately make strides towards targeted remediation. Sadly, the greatest foes of pond health, climate change and watershed development, are not going away.   Annual support means annual progress towards the targeted remediation needed to protect our ponds now and for the future.