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

Edgartown Great Pond received an excellent tidal flush for 20+ days in April, refreshing the Pond with seawater.
EGP cut open and flowing on April 8, 2023.

It has been a while since our latest cut update, so we wanted to celebrate the smashing success of the April cut which stayed open and tidal for 20+ days following winter dredging by the Town of Edgartown. This is excellent news for Edgartown Great Pond and all the life within its depths.

We have Edgartown Shellfish Constable, Rob Morrison to thank for this stellar start to the season. The cut flushed every region and cove both the Pond with salty, cool, clean, and oxygen-rich seawater. Still now in August, the salinity throughout the Pond is in the upper teens ~17-19 ppt (parts per thousand). For reference, the Atlantic Ocean is approximately 33 ppt and eelgrass prefers salinity above 15 ppt but can tolerate salinities as low as 10 ppt for short periods of time.

The question on everyone’s mind seems to be whether or not there will be a summer cut of Edgartown Great Pond. A lot of factors weigh into the Town of Edgartown’s decision to cut the Pond. We are very lucky that the Town’s decision rests on the capable shoulders of biologist and Shellfish Constable, Rob Morrison. Rob uses all the scientific tools and data at his disposal and tends to look towards moon tides to optimize the effectiveness of a cut. The next New Moon is August 16th, and the Full Moon is August 30th. All the conditions, sea state, moon tide, wind, elevation, and many factors must come together for an optimal cut.

For a summer cut to occur, the Pond elevation has to be high going into the summer and the precipitation needs to exceed the evaporation. GPF has been tracking the elevation of EGP and it has been staying at approximately 3 feet above Mean Sea Level (MSL). Successful cuts occur when EGP elevation meets or exceeds 3.5 feet above MSL.

Summer cuts are so fun to see and explore, but the consequences of an ill-timed cut are severe and may outweigh the fun. During a successful cut, the Pond must drain and then it must become tidal to flush all coves and corners of EGP with cool, clean, clear, salty, and oxygenated seawater. If the Pond is cut and drains but the tidal flush does not occur, the Pond would be shallow and heat up, reducing the water quality and endangering all the life within it.

The elevation of Edgartown Great Pond has been staying ~3 feet above Mean Sea Level (MSL).

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.

Explore our work in the 2020 Annual Report!

We are proud to bring you Great Pond Foundation’s Annual Report – 2020.  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.

~ Discover how we Document Diversity in Edgartown Great Pond.

~ Learn about MV CYANO, the Island’s 1st cyanobacteria monitoring program.

~ Enjoy reflections on the History of Mattakeset Creek from Michael Shalett.

GPF Annual Report – 2020

Our Island community lost a dear friend, trusted advisor, scholar, and a gentleman who epitomized all the best of the Vineyard. The following was message sent in response to Kent Healy’s passing, by Executive Director, Emily Reddington, to the Great Pond Foundation Board of Directors. Per the request of the Board, we wanted to share it with the Great Pond community. Reflections of the Board in response are shared as well.
Kent Healy, at the opening of Tisbury Great Pond. Photo by Alley Moore, courtesy of the Vineyard Gazette.

Good morning,

The Island’s great ponds have lost a friend. Kent Healy, WT selectman, civil engineer, longtime Tisbury Great Pond sewer, and a man with a depth of great pond knowledge that was based on 4 decades of study has passed away:

The last time I spoke with Kent was sitting on the porch of Alley’s General Store on the afternoon of September 16th.  We were talking about a grant proposal that David [Bouck, GPF Watershed Outreach Manager] had written and GPF was about to submit to the Martha’s Vineyard Community Foundation requesting support to digitize historic Tisbury Great Pond data.  This grant was written not only with the awareness of the value of preserving decades of laborious data collection and study in order to inform future pond preservation, but also with the awareness that time is finite and we did not want to lose this generational knowledge.  No one, including Kent, knew at the time how truly finite time was.  In the middle of last week, Kent was diagnosed with late stage cancer.  He passed away just a few days later. 

Life, with its rhythms, seems to have a synchronicity well beyond my comprehension.  On Saturday afternoon I received word of Kent’s diagnosis and a few minutes after reading that sad email, I received another from Emily Bramhall of the MV Community Foundation stating: 

I am very pleased to share with you that Great Pond Foundation has been awarded a $10,000 matching grant to fund the important project, Preserving History and Protecting Tisbury Great Pond.  This is an incentive grant that will be paid upon the balance of the request being received from other resources.  We would like to partner with the riparian owners in order to achieve full funding.  

Emily Bramhall, Executive Director of the Martha’s Vineyard Community Foundation

Should you be curious, I have attached the grant application, including Kent’s letter of support, which he wrote promptly and sent to our office electronically, and then also by physical mail, as was his meticulous manner.  When we met at Alley’s in mid-September, Kent had said he was ready to hand his decades of data over to Great Pond Foundation, as his work with it was done and he trusted our team to carry on the work.  Kent was a man of his word, and when he did not show up at our offices with the endless milk crates of data he promised, I suspected he was not doing well. 

Kent was extremely generous to Great Pond Foundation with his time and knowledge. He was infinitely patient with questions and repeated requests for help, and he was unfailing kind, knowledgeable, and collaborative.  For many homes around Edgartown Great Pond whose basements stay dry as the elevation rises, that is because Kent engineered those systems.  In my time at GPF, I don’t recall ever receiving a bill for Kent’s time, nor did I ever send a request for help that was not immediately responded to with full care and attention. With Kent’s passing, we have lost a key member of our pond community. I hope that our work will help to preserve some small bit of his generational knowledge. 

All the best,


For all the countless times that Kent’s name and expertise came up in our board meetings, your letter touched on the emotional impact Kent had on people and on ponds. It should make us all proud that we can now help preserve all the data that Kent generated on Tisbury Great Pond.  

Michael Shalett, GPF Director & President

Kent was one of the kindest and most decent men I have ever known. We are all far better people for having had the blessing of his friendship. 

Kristina West, GPF Director
Kent Healy captured by John Becker in 2011 atop a mound of sand at Tisbury Great Pond. Photo courtesy of Ollie Becker.

Very sad news about a towering force in protecting the island and a great friend of the Great Pond Foundation. He will be sorely missed. 

Bob Rukeyser, GPF Director & Treasurer

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Kent and share your sentiments. He was a wonderful mix of impressive intellect combined with very practical common sense/judgement who was apolitical and generous to the core. We will all miss his experience and sound wisdom. May he Rest In Peace.

Richard Saltzman, GPF Director