Friday, August 6, 2010

Busy Night at Inland Wetlands

In addition to their consideration of an application by Phil Armetta to alter a wetlands mitigation plan on Newfield Street, the Inland Wetlands Agency considered several other issues at their meeting on Wednesday. They held a public hearing and gave approval to the installation of a water main on Country Club Road, they heard more about what is happening (or not) to solve the Coginchaug River blockage caused by the Charton Terrace landslide, they approved a 'general permit' for Water and Sewer, they heard about a small trench cut by a landowner on East Street, they approved a mudroom addition on Lakeview Drive, and they approved subdivision plans on Boardman Lane.

Country Club Road Water Main
About a dozen members of the public, most living near or on Country Club Road, came to hear about the plans for a water main. The Chief Engineer for Water and Sewer, Joe Fazzino, introduced to the Agency the lead engineer on the project, Mark Kopchak from the Maguire Group Company.

Kopchak explained that the line would be a 12" diameter iron pipe laid in the roadbed of the eastbound lane, extending from near Moody School to Middle Street, crossing I91 hanging from under the overpass. Fire hydrants will be installed along Country Club, but the main purpose of the main is to increase water pressure for houses located west of I91 on city water. No sewer line extension is being considered.

The construction will take about 180 days, and is anticipated to start in the spring of 2011. Residents along Country Club will have the opportunity to tap into city water during the construction period.

Several residents spoke in favor of the water line, lauding the increase in pressure and the increased fire protection. Arline Rich and Bob Whitney both cautioned Fazzino and Kopchak about the likelihood that ledge would be encountered below the road and blasting would be required, especially near Higby Mountain. Fazzino promised that the contracts for the firms doing the project would mandate pre-blast inspection of nearby houses.

The agency gave unanimous approval to the application.

Coginchaug Channel Clearing
In June the Agency used a Cease and Desist Order to compel Ted Charton, owner of Charton Terrace Apartments to appear before them at their next meeting, to discuss the stabilization of the bank which collapsed into the Coginchaug and blocked its flow. Charton appeared at the meeting for that reason, and was happy to answer questions and discuss the situation with the Agency. However, the commissioners didn't quite seem to know why they wanted him there, they didn't quite know what to talk about, and could only recognize that there is an impasse in unclogging the Coginchaug.

The impasse is because Federal and State agencies have refused to pay or possibly even permit the clearing of the channel until the bank below Charton Apartments is stabilized, and nobody has the money to stabilize the bank.

Charton said that the city told him an engineering report on the bank would cost $75,000 and that a new stabilization effort could cost as much as $1M. Charton said he had been denied funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), from the Small Business Loan Program, and been denied reimbursement from his insurance company. He said his buildings were completely safe, that the bank was stabilized and that he could not spend
$75,000 for an engineer, let alone $1M for a stabilization.

Charton again told the Agency that he could have cut a small channel through the landslide at a cost of about $5,000, but he was prevented by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Environmental Protection. He charged that the City's Environmental Resource Specialist, Jim Sipperly, had written letters which led to a Cease and Desist order from the Army Corps of Engineers.

Sipperly, at the meeting for another reason, gave the Agency his perspective on the efforts to find a solution to the upstream flooding caused by the landslide. "There's been a lot of meetings with the Army Corps of Engineers and the DEP reps."

Sipperly said that current plans are for the city to pay $15,000, authorized at this week's Council meeting, to hire an engineer to develop a plan for the clearing of the channel. The City hopes that this plan, even without any work on the Charton riverbank, will be enough to convince the DEP and Corps to grant the necessary permits.

After Sipperly's testimony, which Charton watched from the side of the podium, the commissioners expressed their frustration that they were not being informed about the plans for the Coginchaug. Sipperly and Zoning and Wetlands Enforcement Officer Bruce Driska assured the commissioners that they would make available all of the emails and letters regarding the Coginchaug clog.

The commissioners all agreed to wait for more information, particularly from the engineer hired by the city to prepare a plan to clear the channel.

After the meeting I asked Sipperly about the Council's resolution, which authorized the mayor to clear the channel without any permits. Sipperly said that this sounded inappropriate, he said that this work would likely not be covered by a General Permit to Public Works or Water and Sewer, "You'd need an individual permit [at Inland Wetlands]."

Water and Sewer
The "General Permit" for Water and Sewer allows the Department to undertake work in wetlands without obtaining a permit. James Sipperly told the Agency that the Water and Sewer Department brings the plans for any work which they feel might be appropriate under the General Permit to Bruce Driska, Zoning and Wetlands Enforcement Officer for the City. Sipperly said, "Bruce decides if something needs Agency review."

The Agency unanimously approved the application for the General Permit, which will be good
for two years.

Boardman Lane
James Sakonchick. representing Middle Boardman Associates, the owners of the parcel originally chosen as the site of the Army Reserve Training Facility, and more recently as the site of the wetlands mitigation being done by the army, presented plans to the Agency for subdividing the Boardman Lane parcel into 3 lots. One lot, of about 5 acres, would include the 18th century house and associated barns, the plan is that this lot would continue to be used for farming. Another lot, of about 13 acres, would remain under the ownership of Middle Boardman Associates. The third lot is under contract to be bought by the Army Corps of Engineers, and will be used as mitigation for wetlands being impacted during the construction of the training facility at the former Cucia Park.

Under State law, the Wetlands Agency must be notified of all subdivisions of land including wetlands. The Agency unanimously voted that no Wetlands Permit was required for the subdivision, while specifically noting that this approval was solely for the subdivision, not for any development activities on the resulting lots.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This kind of detailed coverage is terrific. I should change from an occasional to a regular reader.