The Greedheads of Popponesset Bay

House leaders tucked a controversial and little noticed item into the budget – Metro – The Boston Globe.

Today the Globe published a jaw dropping story out of Mashpee. Read it. I am almost too pissed off to type. I am so pissed off I shouldn’t type but when I heard about it on a Boston public radio talk show  during a drive to Boston today I did something I’ve never done before and I actually called and vented (my venting begins around 1:09) like that old guy at town meeting who rants about how the fluoride in the water is causing him to have erectile dysfunction and who smells a little bit like pee in his dirty cardigan and who writes long letters to the editor.

Here’s the sordid tale of midnight legislation snuck in the back door on behalf of the rich and mighty. It’s the latest in a saga I’ve been blogging about for a while now.

So there’s been an ongoing stink for the past couple of years in Mashpee as a bunch of  waterfront-owning McMansion-squatting greedheads have filed lawsuit after lawsuit to block a commercial oyster grower named Richard Cook from turning a two-acre stretch of Popponesset Bay into an oyster farm. The town, the state, the courts — all have given the guy the go ahead, but in a classic piece of scumbaggery by a hack State Rep from Newburyport (easily 100 miles away from Mashpee) an amendment was tacked onto the state budget last week that would declare a “marine sanctuary” not in Mashpee specifically, not even on Cape Cod to read the amendment, but at some undisclosed location defined by frigging GPS coordinates. The coward didn’t have the spine to actually name the town — he thought he could cloak it with some frigging latitude and longitude numbers. I’m sure it was an honest mistake. Here’s the offending amendment.

And the crowning indignant play by the esteemed Representative Michael Costello is that he further lacked the balls and courtesy to tell the Cape Cod delegation who were actually elected to represent Mashpee — State Senator Dan Wolf and State Rep David Vieira — that he was dropping the little turd of an amendment affecting their districts onto the budget. Thank god the Globe got curious and punched the numbers into Google Maps. (Thanks to reader Aaron Welles for checking the numbers in Google Earth and sending this screen shot below)

Costello was recruited to do the deed by ML Strategies, the lobbying arm of the Boston law firm of Mintz Levin, the pettifoggers who represent the abutters who live along the shore where Cook’s submerged farm would go.

Costello claims he did it for the environment. Who he did it for was a bunch of pricks who include the owner of the New England Patriots. Who wants to bet Costello gets spotted quaffing a frosty Sam Adams in the owner’s box with Gisele at Foxboro Stadium this fall?  What Costello really did when he committed his ethical breach was try to preserve a million-dollar waterfront view, a great view indeed — across the bay at Cotuit’s pristine Ryefield Point courtesy of the Barnstable Land Trust.

Stand in Cotuit and look back at them and what you see looks like a row of tacky beached ocean liners, lit up to beat the band, their chemical lawns, big piers and cesspools poisoning the very bay this guy’s oysters might actually help clean up.

These people have no souls. None. They remind me of the time as a Cape Cod Times reporter covering the waterfront when I watched in amazement as a Lily Pulitzer-wearing ehisshewle of a grand dame (btw: great job missing this story Cape Cod Times, yet again the Globe has kicked your butt in your own back yard) tell a Barnstable shellfish committee in 1980 that commercial quahoggers in Osterville’s Eel River were a blight on her view and worked close enough to her house that she could “hit them with a nine-iron shot.” She wasn’t the last of the Littoral Leeches. Then the Ostervillians of Imposterville went after the aquaculture guys in West Bay for daring to float bags of seed oysters in front of their houses. “A menace to navigation!” They lost that fight too.

If I only possessed a Mashpee clamming license I would do my level best to invite all my clammer friends to join me in sitting on these jerks’ beach on Popponesset Bay every afternoon around cocktail hour in front of their guests (in a pink Speedo of course) and dig their goddamn clams.  I would fish nowhere else. I would fowl nowhere else. I would do everything in my power to get that now sad but familiar sight of some poor policeman trudging down the sand in his brogans, towards me, telling me, “Please buddy. I know what the law says, but can you just do this someplace else? Please?”

I used to say “yes, sure, don’t want to cause a problem.” But never again. Take back the beaches and give Mashpee back to the original wampum tycoons, the Wampanoags. They at least took decent care of the place and appreciated a fine oyster.

Cook said it all to the Globe:

“All the way along through the process, I’ve done what the agencies and regulators have asked me to do in filing for permits and et cetera,” said Cook. “And I don’t understand how at this point someone can come in the back door from off-Cape and without any knowledge of local authority and residents, try and create something like this in order to stop my proposal from moving forward.”

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

36 thoughts on “The Greedheads of Popponesset Bay”

  1. Keep digging and find out which parties got this guy to tack on this amendment. It never ends. There was a guy in Falmouth who wanted to get an oyster grant started outside Quissett harbor. You would have thought the world was ending by the response. They did everything in their power to quash it claiming it would have a detrimental effect on their boating. Old Cape Cod is gone.

  2. Mason – I am a neutered 8 year old pug who lives in Manhattan with a female pug named Lizzie, my mom, Annie, and my dad, Nick. Lizzie and I summer on Cape Cod with our grandparents. My grandparents are writing a photo book of our summer with them. The photos are really cool and capture our time with them...Mason the Pug
    Sue says:

    Kudos for taking the time to expose yet another great example of nefarious skulldugery in our backyard. Imagine, being forced to witness the offensive sight of a man plying the age old craft of digging oysters from the water whilst sitting on one’s pristine mahagony deck at low tide….horrors! Hard to believe that this issue was worth the time and trouble in the face of girls being kidnapped in Nigeria and global climate change wreaking its inexorable destruction upon our land and water.

  3. Hear, hear! And thanks, Cotuit David, for leading the charge on this. Your comments on Jim Braude and Marjorie Eagan’s show yesterday were spectacular — as surely you heard even Jim B. was impressed. Kudos for speaking up on this issue and let’s hope that the ending of this story reads the way it should.

  4. Follow the Oligarchy.

    The saddest part of this is the fact that the Republicans are saying “see, told ya! the democrats are corrupt and money hungry, etc.”

    Reality is, the Republicans and the Democrats are the same exact thing, using ridiculous unimportant issues as talking points while doing the exact same thing.

    Great job America. Keep voting in Elizabeth Warren’s and Scott Brown’s. Morons.

  5. As a lifelong resident Cape Cod with a family history of fishing and living off the land, I

    find these people to be as unintelligent as they are wealthy. I love seeing the shell

    fisherman staking their claim and earning a living.

    Great job exposing this pathetic waste of time and money.

  6. AGREED, Dave I was just as pissed about this as you are, and wrote my version of disgust to the CCT last PM, maybe they will print it maybe they won’t. But in the meantime I’ll let social media take over and spread the word. This Rep is a turd by any standards…thansk for this. We Cape Codders all need to stand behind Mr. Cook in his efforts to do his farming that I understand he’s done for 30+ years…

  7. I heard you on BPR and you were awesome! Loved the bit about the guy in the “go-to-hell pants” yelling at you to get off his beach. Even former bank prez Elliott Carr has been thrown off private waterfront when he walked the shores of Cape Cod.

    Enough is enough.

    I grew up in Minneapolis, the City of Lakes, where all the lakeshores are public property. They even invite the masses in with bike paths, pedestrian paths, picnic areas and public beaches. Yet people still pay millions, plus extra taxes, for homes across the street from the lakes, despite the presence of hoi polloi parking their Hyundais and old Chevys right in front of their bay windows. I never understood this “get off my waterfront” mentality here.

  8. A dozen or so years ago, I drove a cab in Falmouth. I got a pick-up at the WH ferry with a family that had some time to kill so they asked me to drive them around for an hour and show them “scenic old Cape Cod”.
    I almost said, “sorry, you’re about 20yrs too late”. Instead, I stopped at the lighthouse.

  9. Hard to fathom after living in Cotuit since 1948, the politics and
    battles never cease and the beaches get smaller and the rich are
    so cranky.
    We should be totally supporting our oyster industry along with the men and women
    Who work overtime to provide so many with
    Makes me crazy
    Betsy Siggins

  10. Well done David and thank you for passing on the true story. I will share and share. I will start looking for the Pink speedos now!

  11. facts:
    Cooks real job is that of an electrician, shellfishing has always been a side venture.
    he wants to put 4,800 metal bags in the middle of popp bay, creating a commercial
    operation pulling in over a million per year with a $25 permit
    he got his operation passed by the town by having a relative and friends on the board
    he set the operation set up as 1.99 acres instead of 2 acres so he did not have to go to the state
    he is the greedy one. making money off of land he didn’t purchase, pay rent for or pay the town taxes for!!!!
    He will decrease incoming taxes for the whole town of mashpee by decreasing property values in the surrounding areas
    for what? FOR HIM!

    Good for Bob Kraft!!!

    1. Ralph,
      I respect your right to object to any aquaculture project as they are commercial operations and definitely mean a private taking of public property. They do have a negative impact on the public use of the waterways. You don’t want to run a prop or drag a centerboard over an oyster farm.

      I expect you have expressed your opposition as a Mashpee property owner and voter at the public hearings and done so in the open on the public record as part of the public debate over Cook’s application. I believe his application has been reviewed, in the open, for a number of years now. Not in a back room up on Beacon Hill thanks to the efforts of his lobbying firm, attorneys, and friends in the General Court. Your objections in your comment seems flawed to me. Let me help you out.
      1. Cook’s “real” job is irrelevant. You say “electrician” with a hint of distaste for tradesmen. I know commercial aquaculturists in Cotuit who farm quahogs as a side venture. What does his job have to do with the merits of his proposal?
      2. Neither the number of cages nor the materials they are made from (unless they are radioactive or covered in poison) have any bearing on the project given that they will always be submerged and the only visible evidence of the grant would be buoys marking its boundaries and to warn off boat traffic from overrunning the cages. Are you concerned about pollution?
      3. The grant is closer to Cotuit’s Ryefield Point than it is to the abutters’ properties on Popponesset Island. It is not even close to “the middle” of Popponesset Bay and is it not located in navigable waters. It is planned for a very shallow shoal just inside the Bay entrance. Why aren’t the abutters in Cotuit upset since it is closer to Cotuit’s beaches? Oh yes, that’s right. We preserve our shoreline and don’t have any houses on that shore. You’re very welcome Mashpee. Enjoy your view.
      4. A million dollars a year growing the best nitrogen filtration system in the world? What is the tax rate on that? What will he pay into the public coffers when he sells his haul to a wholesaler? So the permit costs $25. Would $100,000 a year make you happy? I believe the Department of Revenue will welcome the tax Mr. Cook pays on his operation? What’s a dock permit cost to file in Mashpee versus how much the property value soars if the permit is granted? A couple hundred bucks for a couple hundred thousand in value?
      5. I take it you’ve filed a complaint with the State Ethics Commission about the conflict of interest that Cook’s “relative” on the town committee held? I’d like to know the case number please.
      6.So he kept things under a threshold so he wouldn’t trigger another round of bureaucratic review. Just like Representative Michael Cook took advantage of our budgeting process to slip us a midnight willy, complete with GPS coordinates but no mention of Mashpee.
      7. Prove a correlation between oyster farms and declines in beachfront property values. You’re assuming the worst, so back it up.

      Finally — don’t confuse cheering for Bob Kraft with cheering for his football team. One provides entertainment and Superbowl Trophies. The other uses his money to pervert the democratic process and expose himself as a fumbling plutocrat.

  12. Well written response, David! Cotuit Dave, you are rightfully pissed! These “back-door” politics are nauseating…. as are the politicians and the lawyers behind them. I too will share and share! Thank you for your vigilance! Our seashores belong to all. I, too, hope this story ends the way it should!

  13. Screw them…let’s have a fishing conclave on the beach…and we’ll all wear hot pink speedos. I’ll do it once a week every week until they beg for mercy.

  14. David thanks for that response, you beat me to it, but just adding a couple of things…Mr. cook owns about $900,000 of real estate in Mashpee he is paying roughly $9,000 in taxes on those. Also he has been farming this are for over 30 years so this is just a upgrade of his activities. Making whatever amount on $25, isn’t that the same for any business in town, you pay a permit fee and your income is unlimited? And having a friend on the board, should all the board members have NO friends in town? Also the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries has also OK’d the plan. Addintionally, the opposition talks about ‘storm-borne debris’ in their lawsuit. Do you remember what littered most of the south-side beaches and marshes after Hurricaine Bob? A lot of yachts of weathy owners. Clammers have been making a living off land they don’t own for decades all over New England, nothing new there. Decreasing property values? Have you heard anyone in Dennis being affected by all the grants off the north

  15. Well done Dave. This back door approach was truly reprehensible. The town of Barmnstable is trying to increase the number of oysters growing in their waters due to the filtration abilities of this shellfish. Million dollars?? Maybe if they survive to harvest size which takes 2 to 4 years and if a storm or other weather even occurs then what does he make? Nothing maybe.

  16. Well said, David. I wonder how many years the Cotuit Oyster co. has coexisted with the inhabitants of Cotuit and Grand Island. Forever? In fact, for me the presence of the Oyster Co. and its famous “Cotuits” adds to the character that is Cotuit and its harbor. How short sighted of the grand poobahs on Popp Island.

  17. David, Great work putting this out there for the public to see what a slime ball Representative Michael Costello is and how perverted the system has become. Duxbury and Kingston have acres and acres of oyster farms and produce some of the tastiest treats around. No one in the multimillion dollar houses on King Caesar’s point object.

    What are the odds of the Cape Cod contingent getting this changed? My head is still reeling thinking about getting a state rep 120 miles away to be a political hack for a few rich pricks on the cape who can afford to pay big bucks to a lobbyist.

  18. NIMBYs are all over Cape Cod nowadays it seems. A lot of great ideas have been squashed by big wallets. Progress is usually dead in the water unless it’s backed by the wealthy.

  19. Well looks like the real devils behind all this(the money) has been revealed in the Cape Cod Times today. Hopefully our Cape Reps will kill this in the senate.

  20. Wonderful post David! I married into Cotuit and have been spending time on the beach there since 1978. I consider myself a relative newcomer but have fallen in love with the place. It gives me hope to read such an eloquent portrayal of a sordid deal and to know that so many will read it and hopefully take action. Keep at it.

  21. Well I finally got my letter to the editor published today weeks after they say it ‘got lost’…

    May 31, 2014
    I write regarding the Mashpee shellfisherman whose oystering operation was the target of Popponesset residents who hired a lobbyist to fight it.

    I hope all of Cape Cod is outraged by this lunacy that waterfront homeowners have opposed for a long time Richard Cook’s right to farm oysters in these waters. The sneaky legislation was submitted by a legislator 100 miles away to take away a hardworking Cape Codder’s income in the process. Politics at its slimy best.

    Now those same abutters are saying it could run afoul of Mashpee’s zoning bylaws. Are they joking? Richard Cook just wants some space to exercise his right to work some saltwater area, which he apparently has for 30 years, and has sacrificed more and more to get it.

    This is just another glaring example of the off-Cape wealthy coming here to make it just like they want it and trying to control our lifestyle, instead of how it’s been for centuries. If they don’t like it, please choose a bridge and leave.

    Duncan Campbell


  22. A Wampanoag shell fisherman once told me the beach in front of Bob Kraft’s house had really big steamers for those recreational diggers without a boat .

  23. I just came across your comments during a random search related to another coastal issue.

    I am a resident of Mashpee and acquainted with coastal processes in the area since 1989. The subject area has been very much in a state of coastal instability during the past 30 years. All issues of politics, personal viewpoint and other matters addressed by your comments aside, there is proven technical / scientific merit in limiting activities in this area which may contribute to detrimentally impacting the coastal processes.

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