by John Portnoy
With the advantage of 20:20 hindsight, especially our 21st century understanding of the values of estuaries, we are compelled to offer this brief (and less poetic) rejoinder to Martha Baker’s poem:
Anyone who has experienced the mosquito nuisance near the diked Herring River over the past century might react to these poetic lines with a feeling of tragic irony. Diking off the tides was supposed to drain the wetland breeding habitat of floodwater mosquitoes. Although salt water was blocked, stagnant freshwater mosquito breeding habitat remained throughout the diked wetlands.  This probably explains why Wellfleet annually spent thousands more dollars on mosquito control, i.e. ditch digging and pesticides, during the decade after the dike was built than before.  Those “fertile fields of waving grain” never materialized; however, the diking did have dramatic, and mostly unintended, consequences. These include the deterioration of hundreds of acres of what we now recognize as productive salt marshes, degradation of water quality, loss of estuarine fish and wildlife and, alas, the persistence of mosquitoes. Especially during wet years, they still do hold their “infernal sway”.