It Is Out! Secretary Bowles Decision Released by Town

July 7th was the meeting. July 14th was the deadline for comments. July 24th the decision was expected. Here it is! The long awaited decision by state Environmental Affairs’ Secretary Ian Bowles has been released by the Town of Sutton website.

Over 30 state agencies, environmental groups and individuals joined the MPA to stand in support of Manchaug Pond and bring to light concerns and devastating impacts of the proposed project to breach the dam: Senator Richard Moore, Reps. Callahan and Kujawski, the Blackstone River Coalition and Mass Audubon, The Bass Federation and the Massachusetts Bass Federation, Douglas Selectman, Town of Sutton, Sutton Conservation Commission, and MassDEP, Mass Department of Fish and Game, Mass Dept of Conservation and Recreation and a number of citizens and attorneys. Secretary Bowles notes “the proposed project has garnered widespread opposition from the public and from officials at both the state and local level.”

In the document, it is clear that Secretary Bowles understands the value of this lake to the property owners in the watershed, to up and down stream, to the local communities and to the Commonwealth. He calls for an arrangement “to prevent significant adverse environmental impacts to Manchaug Pond and provide for the continued use of this recreational fishery of state-wide importance by the boating and fishing public.”

Further he notes that comments from the “Office of Dam Safety (ODS) state that the dam was in satisfactory condition as recently as December of 2008, and that the ODS has not determined the dam to be in unsafe condition.”

Fully outlined by the Secretary’s requirement that the dam owner perform a full Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) is the numerous adverse impacts, the need for specific studies identifying the scope of the impacts, the licensing and permitting this would require, and significant mitigation measures. “The project is predicted, by both the proponent and the concerned commenters, to have significant consequences for wetland resource areas, species habitat, and downstream water flows, which many in turn adversely impact nearby water supplies, wastewater treatment facilities and/or septic systems. In addition, commenters have stressed that this dramatic change to the size of existing pond would threaten to severely curtail recreational uses of the Pond, reduce the value of abutting properties, and harm nearby business that rely on this heavily used public recreational resource.”

Here’s a few examples of the many specific impacts noted and the mitigation required – it just makes the whole project absurd and cost prohibitive:

The MPA presented testimony received from a recent survey of members and other abutters as to current impacts to private wells. In response to that concern, Secretary Bowles stated the dam owner’s report should “inventory all public and private water supply wells that could be affected by the permanent drawdown caused by the dam removal. This includes but is not necessarily limited to all public and private water supply wells within a one-mile radius of the Pond. If water supplies are diminished, mitigation should be proposed by the proponent.

Mass Dept of Fish and Game (DFG) “is concerned that the removal of the dam would result in substantial adverse impacts to a recreational fishery of state-wide importance and effectively eliminate the use of the Pond for recreational boating by the Public, while providing limited environmental benefits in return.” Fisheries surveys of the Pond reveal the presence of ten species and “of the Mumford River have yielded 21 species and the unnamed tributary to Manchaug Pond is identified as a significant coldwater fisheries resource. The DEIR should fully evaluate the impacts of the proposed project on fishers within the Pond and associated tributaries…”

In speaking of the DFG boat ramp and property on Manchaug Pond, “the removal of the dam would result in lowered water levels and effectively eliminate the ability of the public to launch and retrieve trailered watercraft. In addition, there are numerous other private recreational uses sponsored on or near the Pond.” The detailed analysis here should include the identification and impact on current and future recreational public uses of the pond and propose mitigation to offset impacts to recreational interests.

How about a graphic survey of all private or publicly owned and operated water-dependent facilities, including but not limited to: facilities for swimming, fishing, and diving; docks, piers, floats and/or moorings; shore protection structures, headwalls and culverts; and road crossings.

And how about where “the project will result in the elimination of Torrey Road”… lets look at the impacts from its removal to nearby residences, businesses and identify alternative routes, identify current number of vehicles using and specify where this traffic would go in order to provide access within this portion of Sutton and Douglas.” And address “ownership of Torrey Road and whether the proponent possesses sufficient rights to eliminate this roadway that is currently used by the public.”

We didn’t even talk yet about the impact to bordering wetlands, land under water and the permanent loss of 9,147 linear feet of bank, oh the list goes on and on! Read it for yourself!

To the Town website:

Here’s the link to the document itself:
The link to EOEEA Secretary Ian Bowles decision on the proposed removal of the Manchaug Dam

The Manchaug Pond Association remains committed to Manchaug Pond having served as stewards and advocates for the past 40+ years, we expect to continue this work into the future. As suggested by Secretary Bowles, we look to foster the partnerships and identify the arrangements necessary to “prevent significant adverse environmental impacts to Manchaug Pond and provide for its continued use…”