The Worcester Telegram correspondent missed the article on Manchaug Pond by a long shot. She got caught up in the dam owner’s latest effort to be rid of their last piece of Massachusetts real estate. Consulting her previous contacts with the Whitins Reservoir Watershed District and citing one report made to Sutton Selectman, she fails to report recent efforts and rulings of those champions of the 380* acre lake: the Sutton Conservation Commission, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Mass Wildlife, Douglas Conservation Commission, our local legislators, the courts and the people of Manchaug Pond and their association.
Are we to panic about their INTENT to breach? No. The dam owner announced they were exploring the option to breach at least 2 years ago when they decided to relocate the mill operation and sell the properties. The MPA then and now continues to work solidly and methodically to protect the lake and resolve the dam ownership issue. Have we asked Whitin’s district to save us, or “solve the problem” – NO. They are acting in their own interest. Also, breaching is not an overnight process – it would take years. Further, does it make any sense that the state who ordered the flashboards in and historic levels would allow a breach!?
Let’ s look at a few major details the article fails to explore: Last year, the dam owner began their effort to reduce the lake and be rid of the property by filing with local commissions, and appealing to the DEP and the courts to reduce the lake in the name of safety and benefit to the environment. The local Sutton Conservation Commission was the first to champion the effort issuing an Order of Conditions mandating the dam owner keep to historic levels to protect wetlands, bank and land under water. The Mass Department of Fish and Wildlife submitted testimony pointing to the need to protect fish spawning areas and maintain connectivity with coldwater brook trout fisheries feeding Manchaug. Mass Office of Dam Safety stated they had not found the dam unsafe. (since 1854!?) Mass DEP was our next champion conducting a site evaluation, and ordered the flashboards in finding 7 violations to the Wetlands Protection Act. When the dam owner filed a civil suit against both agencies, judges in Superior Court ruled in favor of MassDEP and Sutton Conservation Commission as represented by the assistant Attorney General.
The dam owner may state the dam no longer serves them and their mill but it serves a wide user community of seasonal property owners, many recreational visitors and fishing and canoe/kayak clubs through the public access boat ramp, seasonal campers from 3 campgrounds, a nonprofit children’s YMCA day camp program, conservation land at Waters Farm, the Lake Manchaug Greenway and Wildlife Corridor linking two state forest/parks, 2 waste water/sewer treatment plants downstream (the town of Douglas and the Interface mill) and contributes to the flow of the Mumford and Blackstone River system which now boast the use of hydroelectric power not to mention drinking water through the Whitinsville Water Company. It is a jewel of a natural resource to the community and the state.
We will continue our efforts to preserve Manchaug Pond.
*Mass DEP acreage 2009