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New Bedford Evening Standard
May 25, 1886

The Draw in West Island Bridge.

THE HARBOR COMMISSIONERS DO NOT REQUIRE IT.

This causeway was especially authorized by chapter 298 of the acts of 1885, which provided that the causeway should be built with or without a draw as this board should determine.

When application was made to this board to approve and license the plans for the causeway, it appeared that the legislative committee who reported the special act aforesaid had advertised notice of the hearing to be had afore it upon the petition for the causeway, and that committee, or before in the legislature, to oppose the causeway or to ask for a draw.

This board gave to the selectman of Fairhaven the notice required by law of the time and place fixed for a hearing before it upon the plans of the causeway, and before the day assigned for the hearing, the board visited and examined, in company with the councilor and senator of the district, the site of the proposed causeway and the waters in the vicinity. The facts relating the this visit by the board and the purpose of it were fully reported in the news columns of the New Bedford newspapers giving probably as effectual notice to the public of the pendency of this matter as any advertising could afford.

At the subsequent hearing of this board in Boston, no person appeared to ask for a draw, nor did the board before deciding upon the plans receive from any quarter a suggestion that the convenience and necessity of the public, or individuals, required a draw, and the investigations of the board, including the examinations and study by the aid of charts of the depth and character of the channel to be crossed by the causeway, and it’s relation to other navigable waters, did not seem to indicate that was of such importance to navigation as to require a draw for the passage of vessels or boats through it. The board accordingly Aug. 13, 1885, prescribed and approved plans for building the causeway without a draw, but with a clear opening of 30 feet in width spanned by a bridge with a clear height of 5 1/2 feet above mean high water. This opening is at or near the deepest water of the channel and will afford simple facilities for passage of all craft without masts.

Some seven or eight months after this action by the board petitions signed by residents of Fairhaven, New Bedford, Bourne, Mattapoisett and Marion, describing themselves as "fisherman, yachtsman and others" have been presented to the board, asking that a large, commodious and convenient draw may be required in the causeway in question. It may be stated that some of these petitioners have since in writing or verbally withdrawn their names from these petitions, upon the ground that they signed inadvertently or without knowledge of a facts. petitions, upon the ground that they signed inadvertently or without knowledge of a facts.

It appears that Mr. Crowell, the licensee, at the time of the filing of these petitions had made his contract for building of the causeway, and has made considerable progress in the construction of the causeway. He does not waive, but expressly reserves, the question whether the board now has the power to reconsider it’s former action, and engineer of the board made a few days previously, it appears the channel between Long and West Islands is a somewhat rocky and circuitous, but affords passage for those familiar with it for yachts and boats drawing up to 3 1/2 to four feet of water at mean low tide; and that in certain conditions of wind and tide, this passage, though not shorter, is preferred to the course outside West Island in the open bay. It does not appear that this passage is used, to any considerable extent for business or commerce, or even by fisherman; but that it’s chief use is for pleasure boating and yachting during the summer season. This is a legitimate use of the tide waters, and tide waters that admit of pleasure boating are in the eye of the law to all intents navigable waters, and entitled to full protection as such; but it is competent for the legislature to authorize the construction of navigable waters, if and to such extent as, it deems the greater public interest may require.

This causeway is only part of a feature of a large enterprise, by which it is intended to make West Island, containing 800 acres of land, available for improvement and residence, and for the use and enjoyment of many persons. It is claimed that this scheme, if carried out, will not only develop the island, but the mainland on Sconticut Neck, and will add considerably to the valuation of real estate in the town of Fairhaven, and the town has recognized the importance of the enterprise by the appropriation for the improvement of the public road on Sconticut Neck, of which this causeway will be practically an extension to West Island. Now if this enterprise can be carried out and succeeds, there can be little doubt that that the interests and convenience of those owning property on Long and West Islands, and the mainland to it’s vicinity, will soon require and will soon supply the means for the maintenance of a draw for the causeway. If the enterprise does not succeed, the causeway will probably not be maintained for any length of time and will not continue to obstruct navigation.

Without intending to intimate that the decision of this board would have been different in respect to the requirement of a draw, we cannot acquit the petitioners of some negligence in failing to make their views and intents available to the legislature and this board. The cost of building and maintaining and opening a draw would be considerable, and the requirement of a draw would have been a serious objection, if not a fatal discouragement, to the undertaking of the causeway. It would seem to be a hardship if not an injustice, to now object to the promoters of the enterprise, to a burden and an expense from which they supposed themselves exempt and which they did not contemplate when they entered upon it’s execution. We do no think, therefore, that while we regret that the petitioners should be subjected to any inconvenience, however slight or temporary, that it is unreasonable for them to await, under the present circumstances, the further development of this enterprise and, while we do not underestimate the importance of the interests of navigation involved, we do not think they are of such magnitude to require or justify, under the circumstances, the interposition of the board.