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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)




How can I get to Cape Cod?

You can get to Cape Cod by car, bus, plane, and boat. Once you are on Cape Cod, you can also use public transit, take a scenic train ride, and enjoy bicycle and walking trails. One of the best online guides to travel to, from, and around Cape Cod is the Smart Guide:  www.smartguide.org


♦ I want to take part in some of the walking events I've heard about that are held around Cape Cod. Where can I learn more about them?

Barnstable County sponsors a project known as Cape Cod Pathways to encourage the creation and use of a network of walking trails across the Cape. Leaders of the Pathways project organize periodic "walking weekends," which offer more than 20 walks and hikes in various locations around the Cape, and occasional "Cape Walks," which lead participants from one end of the Cape to the other over nine days. More information about Cape Cod Pathways and these events is available online:  www.capecodcommission.org/departments/planning/naturalresources/pathways


Where do I go to get water from my house tested for pollution and other substances?

Barnstable County has a water-quality testing laboratory operated by the Department of Health and Environment:  www.barnstablecountyhealth.org/water-quality-laboratory


My town committee or organization is looking for money to pursue important projects. Where can we apply for grants or funds on Cape Cod?

Barnstable County offers help to Cape municipalities seeking grant funds and other resources through its Resource Development Office: www.barnstablecountyrdo.org


Who or what department do I contact at town hall for a particular problem?

Each town's municipal offices are organized differently. It would be best for you to visit the web site of the town you are interested in and then contact the town office directly. The Cape Cod Commission provides links to the web site of the Barnstable County regional government offices and to each town's web site from its QuickLinks page: www.capecodcommission.org/quicklinks/countytowns






What is the Cape Cod Commission and what does it do?

The Cape Cod Commission is a governmental agency that guides land use planning, economic development, and the regulation of development proposals that have regional impacts on the environment, economy, and infrastructure of Cape Cod, the renowned coastal peninsula in the southeastern portion of the state of Massachusetts. The Commission's work covers all of Barnstable County, which includes all areas of the towns of Barnstable, Bourne, Brewster, Chatham, Dennis, Eastham, Falmouth, Harwich, Mashpee, Orleans, Provincetown, Sandwich, Truro, Wellfleet, and Yarmouth, Massachusetts. You can learn more about the mission, history, structure, projects, and current activities of the Cape Cod Commission at the web site:  www.capecodcommission.org




How is the Cape Cod Commission funded?

The Commission’s revenue comes from three sources: a property assessment; federal, state, and private grants; and fees. The property assessment is entirely independent from a town’s tax levy. The Commission’s revenue is deposited into the Cape Cod Environmental Protection Fund (CCEPF), authorized under the Cape Cod Commission Act. Funds in the CCEPF may be used only for the Commission’s approved budget, which is reviewed by the Barnstable County Commissioners and the Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates. More information about the Commission’s funding and budget is available online:  www.capecodcommission.org/departments/administration




What is a Development of Regional Impact?

The state legislation that established the Cape Cod Commission (the Cape Cod Commission Act) authorizes the agency's regulatory powers, which are generally limited to reviews of proposed large-scale developments known as "Developments of Regional Impact" (DRIs). The Commission's regulations and authority supplement local authority throughout the 15 towns of Barnstable County. Towns refer proposed projects to the Cape Cod Commission for DRI review when the proposed projects exceed specific thresholds, and occasionally when towns wish to seek Commission consideration of specific project-related impacts. Information about the Commission's regulatory authority and regulations is available online:  www.capecodcommission.org/departments/regulatory


Where can I learn about the status of a certain project undergoing DRI review?

The Commission's Regulatory Department staff posts information and notices about hearings and meetings related to active projects on the agency’s Regulatory calendar:  www.capecodcommission.org/calendar

If you wish to review the public record for any project, you may contact the Commission and set an appointment to see the files. Contact the office by phone (508-362-3828) or email (frontdesk@capecodcommission.org) to request a file review Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.


How do I submit a comment about a DRI?

When public hearings are held for a proposed project undergoing DRI review, anyone wishing to attend the hearing is welcome to do so, and anyone wishing to testify orally at the hearing is also welcome. Written comments may also be submitted at the hearing, or delivered or mailed to the Cape Cod Commission, P.O. Box 226, 3225 Main Street, Barnstable, MA 02630 for receipt on or before the date of the hearing or until the record is closed. 


Where can I find Cape Cod Commission regulatory decisions?

As a public convenience, the Cape Cod Commission makes its decisions available for download from the web site:  www.capecodcommission.org/departments/regulatory/decisions


How long will the Cape Cod Commission's review of take?

Generally, the Cape Cod Commission's Development of Regional Impact (DRI) review timeframe is up to 210 days, but the process can be completed more quickly if a complete set of application materials is submitted in a timely way. If a proposed project is also subject to review by the state's Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) Office, the review may take longer.


How can I contact the Cape Cod Commission members?

Citizen volunteers serve as members of the Cape Cod Commission. In their role of reviewing Developments of Regional Impact (DRIs) and other regulatory matters, Commission members must confine their review to the oral and written information received during the public hearing process. All comments--from applicants and their representatives, town officials, and the public at large--must be made to the record so that all members equally receive the message. You may attend the public hearings and make your comments orally or in writing, or send your comments in writing through the US mail or through email to the Regulatory Program staff, who will share your comments with Commission members and incorporate them into the record accordingly. You may address letters to the Commission using PO Box 226, Barnstable, MA 02630, or send email in care of the staff to frontdesk@capecodcommission.org.






I need to obtain Census, demographic, and economic information and data about Cape Cod and certain towns on the Cape. Where can I get that data?

One of the most comprehensive resources available to everyone is the Cape Cod Commission’s online data center called STATScapecod:  www.statscapecod.org

The site offers community profiles and comparisons; data sets of regional benchmarks for a balanced economy and regional income growth; town-by-town data about commuting, employment, wages, families, households, housing units, population, rooms tax, and work; and a set of maps that graphically depict a wide variety of data about Cape Cod.


I want to get a map of and geographic data about the resources of Cape Cod. How do I do that?

Some of the maps and data you might want are offered through the STATScapecod online data center mentioned above. Others created by the Cape Cod Commission's Geographic Information System (GIS) department and are available from the Cape Cod Commission's web site:  www.capecodcommission.org/departments/technicalservices/GIS

Maps specifically created to supplement the Cape Cod Regional Policy Plan, the blueprint for growth on Cape Cod, are available on the RPP site:  www.capecodcommission.org/regionalplans/RPP

For other maps and geographic data, you may contact the director of the Commission's GIS department:  areynolds@capecodcommission.org

Available maps and data may be provided within 10 days of a request.


Where can I get data about the groundwater levels on Cape Cod?

The Cape Cod Commission staff monitors and measures the level of groundwater at certain locations around Cape Cod. The data are posted monthly on the Commission's web site:  www.capecodcommission.org/departments/technicalservices/water/wells





What is an MPO?

A Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is a federally mandated and federally funded transportation policy-making committee made up of representatives from local government and governmental transportation authorities. Across the country, MPOs are responsible for seeing that available local federal transportation funds are spent in a way that is consistent with regional transportation plans. The Cape Cod Commission provides staff to develop the planning documents and facilitate the MPO decisions for Cape Cod. Information about the Cape Cod MPO is available online:  www.capecodcommission.org/departments/technicalservices/transportation/CCMPO


What are the transportation projects in line for funding and implementation on Cape Cod?

Projects listed in the first year of each annual Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) list that is approved by the Cape Cod MPO are in line for funding. Information about the TIP is available online:  www.capecodcommission.org/departments/technicalservices/transportation/TIP


How do projects get on the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP)?

A slide show summarizing the process for projects to get listed on the annual TIP is available online:  www.capecodcommission.org/departments/technicalservices/transportation/TIP






What is the Cape Cod aquifer?

Cape Cod is a peninsula in southeastern Massachusetts jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean. The Cape was created when glaciers receded northward thousands of years ago and left behind large deposits of sand and gravel. The mix is very permeable, meaning water and other liquid substances that are pulled downward by gravity filter easily through it. On Cape Cod, rain and other forms of precipitation are the only sources for groundwater, which is the region’s fresh drinking water supply. The water-saturated soil below the surface is called the “aquifer.” More information is available online:  www.capecodcommission.org/departments/technicalservices/water/aquifer


Is Cape Cod’s drinking water clean?

Yes, Cape Cod’s water supply is generally very clean. Because the region’s drinking water comes only from the groundwater aquifer, however, it needs to be protected from contamination and pollution. Federal, state, regional, and local laws and careful management of public water supply wells help ensure that the groundwater remains clean. More information is available online:


Are Cape Cod’s ponds clean?

Cape Cod has about 1,000 ponds and lakes, most of which were formed as depressions in the ground when glaciers receded northward thousands of years ago. The depressions, called “kettle holes,” filled with groundwater, and are the surface of the aquifer. Cape Cod ponds and lakes are enjoyed for their beauty and for the many recreational uses they offer. Their water quality, however, is dependent on land uses around them, just like the rest of the aquifer. Many ponds are clean and safe for swimming and boating, but their water quality is at risk of pollution from chemicals, wastewater, and excess fertilizers running off the surrounding areas and through the groundwater into the ponds and lakes. Cape Cod citizens and scientists monitor the water quality of these water bodies on a regular basis, and federal, state, regional, and local laws and management techniques help protect and maintain the water quality. More information is available online:  www.capecodcommission.org/departments/technicalservices/water/ponds


Are Cape Cod’s coastal waters clean?

Besides being pulled down into the aquifer, Cape Cod’s groundwater also flows toward and into the shorelines, bays,  and tidal rivers. Cape Cod’s coastal waters are generally clean for swimming, fishing, and boating. Depending on the size, shape, and hydrology of a particular water body, however, many of Cape Cod’s coastal waters are affected by chemicals, wastewater, fertilizers, and other substances that may enter the surface water and groundwater from land uses. These substances are harming the ecology of many Cape Cod coastal water bodies, and scientists and officials are working to address the existing problems and prevent future ones. More information is available online:






What is the problem with wastewater on Cape Cod?

The water quality in most of the watersheds for Cape Cod’s coastal embayments have been assessed by scientists and show evidence of harm caused by excess nutrients, including nitrogen-containing compounds, in the water that flows into those water bodies. The single highest contributor of those nutrients is the water draining from residential on-site septic systems. This water is what we mean when we use the term “wastewater.” Cape Cod’s sandy soil readily absorbs wastewater, which sinks through the soil and travels underground to Cape Cod’s embayments and water bodies, impairing the water quality and having a negative effect on the ecology of those resources.


What is the Cape Cod Commission doing about the problem?

The Commission is working with local, regional, state, and federal agencies to raise awareness of the issue; to perform scientific assessments of conditions; to plan for and pursue options to fix the problems that have already been caused by excess nutrients; and to protect water bodies from any future damage. The Commission is working on this issue with Cape Cod town officials, the regional Cape Cod Water Protection Collaborative, the Barnstable County Department of Health and Environment, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection/Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and several nonprofit organizations in the area to identify wastewater-related problems and recommend solutions to keep Cape Cod’s ecology and economy healthy. More information is available online:  www.capecodcommission.org/regionalplans/RWMP


What are the proposed solutions to the wastewater problem?

No single technique is going to solve Cape Cod’s wastewater pollution problem. A mix of solutions will need to be implemented. The Commission is studying solutions on a watershed-by-watershed basis and places a priority on the watersheds that are shared between towns.

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