Solar Operation Proposed on Manchaug Pond Watershed

Posted April 8, 2018.

Parcels at 44 Old Mill and 226 Putnam Hill Roads, Sutton

A private land owner is planning a large industrial-scale solar array for the hill north of Manchaug Pond within the watershed. If allowed, the two parcels to be cleared and developed stretch from 44 Old Mill Road to 226 Putnam Hill Road encompassing a large portion of currently forest land and the smaller corn field at Putnam Hill and Lackey Roads. Specifically the proposal involves an amendment to the Town’s Zoning Bylaws to be voted on at the May 14th town meeting which reads: Amendment 5.  “Add 75+ acres at 226 Putnam Hill Road and 13+ acres at 44 Old Mill Road to the Solar Photovoltaic Overlay District (SPOD) where large ground mounted solar systems over 250 kw are allowed.

Monday, April 9, 2018, beginning at 7:10 p.m. a public hearing by the Sutton Planning Board on the 3rd floor of the Sutton Town Hall, 4 Uxbridge Road, Sutton will offer an opportunity to learn more about the project as part of 7 amendments under consideration which look to allow and/or regulate marijuana dispensaries and the addition of three new commercial, industrial solar operations with a combined 239 acres in Sutton.

226 Putnam Hill Road north of Manchaug Pond

The project would most likely involve the loss of the agricultural land and part of the watershed wildlife corridor with the cutting of forest from the 75+ acre Putnam Hill Road field/wood lot through the wooded 13+ acre parcel connecting to Old Mill Road just north of Manchaug and Aldrich Mill Ponds to install “large ground mounted solar systems.”  As we know, human activities and land uses within a watershed directly effect the water quality of our water resources –  wetlands, streams, ponds and lakes and public and private wells. Land in a natural, forested state offers optimum conditions for clean water and little to no invasives whereas the activities and just plain living by each of us bring roads, homes, and landscapes where run-off from impervious surfaces such as roofs, driveways and roads can cause erosion and sedimentation; and where septic systems, pets and livestock, gardens, fields, lawns, and landscapes can bring animal wastes, bacteria, fertilizers, and pesticides directly as non-point sources of pollution. (Check out our Manchaug Pond Care Guide to do your part!)  Sutton Conservation Commission would likely be involved in the construction process in order to protect wetland/stream areas on the property and keep runoff from Manchaug Pond and smaller Aldrich Mill Pond.  Topography of the hillside notes an elevation of 740′ at Putnam Hill Road sloping some 200 feet down to the lake’s 540’. The Manchaug Pond Foundation has already worked to addressed the heavy volume of runoff from this hillside with the installation of a catch basin, sediment traps and swale at three sites on Manchaug Road securing engineering and monies through two EPA/DEP Non-point Source Pollution grants with the Town of Sutton cooperating.

Topographical/contour map of area north of Manchaug Pond

Manchaug Pond Foundation
 With the potential for negative impacts from construction projects and human activity to the water quality of Manchaug and Aldrich Mill Ponds a strong reality, the property owner, solar company and our town boards must insist on plans and structures which protect our water resources. Such things as seeding exposed soils to prevent erosion, vegetative buffers and swales to capture run-off from impervious surfaces, maintenance of a natural landscaped border along property lines to maintain the natural viewshed from the lake and the scenic, rural character of the Manchaug watershed, and a future de-commissioning plan to remove all structures if/when the solar facility is phased out to eliminate potential future pollutants.
 Mark you calendar to be involved in the process: April 9th and May 14th.  Non-residents who are interested can also attend but will be required at town meeting to sit in a designated section to the side.
Visit the Manchaug Pond Foundation website for information on how you can protect our water resources in your landscape, events listing, and to contact us,  join and support our efforts together.

Manchaug Pond Foundation

Comments 5

  1. I hope the town of Sutton’s conservation commission does their due diligence.
    Should Douglas CC be involved since the pond is in both towns?

  2. It seems that this can be responsibly done, as long as mitigation measures are taken to ensure that the watershed is adequately protected, and that the aesthetic appeal of the area is not degraded. The provisions for decommissioning and removal will be important, and should be part of the overall financial planning. The project is an opportunity to demonstrate that sustainable energy sources can be established with due attention given to the environmental concerns of the site. Clearly, in the effort to move away from fossil fuels, we should be supporting such projects if they are responsibly implemented.

  3. What’s in it for the towns taxpaying residents? While there is no graphical rendering or model it’s looks like Real potential Eye sore ! I’m concerned about negative impact on residential property value if it could not get any worse that it is in Sutton.
    Lots to consider outside the virtuous value of clean energy!!!

    1. Completely valid concerns, Fred.

      I am not saying that the project should 100% certainly be approved. I am merely stating that it should be investigated. Naturally, the concerns of property owners, care for the environmental impact, and cost/benefit analysis of the energy to be produced should be weighed. I suppose my comment was mostly made to suggest that such projects shouldn’t simply be opposed outright without a substantive conversation. In the Facebook group, the comments have been almost entirely in opposition, without due circumspection.

      1. Agreed. I’m open to community improvements as long as they take all environmental concerns into account including; vegetation, water, resident wildlife and ascetics, Sutton hates a single Cell Tower as such resident have been going with cell service for years in west Sutton. As an example would you see a 265 acre solar farm in Yellowstone National Park? Again, residential property values also would this open the door to further commercialization of land abutting this proposed solar farm as having such a large structure I can just hear it now…well since we have that here why not put this there as well…!

        Looking forward to the hearings….

        Thank you for you reply as well!

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