Scott Hannula, Decas Cranberry Company, Inc. project manager for the tailwater recovery pond project located at 109 Neck Road, along with Brian Grady of G.A.F. Engineering, came before the Rochester Conservation Commission on February 7 to explain how and why the project has run afoul of its permit.
Chairman Michael Conway read the public notice citing “violation” and then, looking at the two representatives, said “Explain to us why you are here.”
Grady outlined in broad strokes that, after an on-site visit by Conservation Agent Laurell Farinon, irregularities were noted. Somehow the depth of the pond was 8 feet lower than the commission had permitted.
Further, Grady pointed out that earth removal operations conducted by a private contractor had hauled 7% more dirt off the site, also a permit violation. And finally, Grady said that the storage of some 35,000 yards of material that was subsequently used to rehabilitate bogs at the location had not been included in the original Notice of Intent filing.
Grady said, “In hindsight, we should have come to the soil board and commission … that’s why we are here now.”
Commissioners Daniel Gagne and Laurene Gerrior questioned Grady’s math as it related to the actual amount of soil that had been hauled off site, with Gagne asking for an as-built survey. But Grady pushed back, saying that it wasn’t safe to send his crew to the bottom of the hole.
Gagne countered, “There are other ways to do it.” Grady had estimated that 200,960 yards, rather than the 200,409 that were permitted, had been removed.
Grady offered to present records from the trucking contractor, but Gagne and others felt that would just be restating what had already been presented. The commissioners wanted more.
Farinon said, “I agree with Dan.” She said, “The only true way to know how much material was taken is to get it surveyed.” She also told the commissioners that they would have to amend the Order of Conditions to take the violation into consideration.
Farinon said that at the time the project was being proposed, members of the Mattapoisett River Valley Water Protection Advisory Committee had verbalized concerns that surrounding ponds such as Snow’s, Black and Snipatuit would be adversely affected.
Conway held his gaze and said, “I don’t understand how you can manage a project and not know where you are. Was no one paying attention?”
Hannula responded, “It’s an unfortunate mistake I made.” He continued, offering a mea culpa, “I wasn’t paying as close attention as I should. It rests solely on my shoulders.”
He continued, “This isn’t a haphazard project,” he said in defense but admitted, “I did not check throughout the project.” Hannula pled, “We are close to the end; we’d like to finish.”
Hannula asked if they could stop the dewatering portion of the project and let the nearly completed pond fill up. He said it was very expensive to run the pumps and with further delays due to a cease and desist order that was now in place, it looked like a month would go by with no work taking place.
The commissioners were not moved to agree.
Gagne said he wanted full-time on-site engineering professionals overseeing the balance of the project to “tell us the truth.”
Farinon cautioned the commissioners that the applicants would be meeting with the soil board regarding the matter; thus, she didn’t want the commission to do anything that might run counter to their decision.
Commissioner Kevin Cassidy said, “Just continue pumping for now.”
Hannula left with a new to-do list that included preparing an as-built plan in the next ten days with surveyed results for the pond in its current state and accurate figures on the amount of material that has been removed. The public meeting was continued until March 7.
Also running into violation territory with the issuance of an enforcement order were Lorraine and William Hawkes, 591 Neck Road.
Farinon reported that an abutter had observed landscaping activities on the Hawkes’ property along the bordering vegetated wetlands of Snipatuit Pond. She said that she conducted a site visit and instructed the landscape contractor to contact the Hawkes who are presently in Florida. Farinon spoke to the Hawkes and advised them of the violation.
The commissioners voted to proceed with the violation enforcement order that will include analysis by a wetland scientist, delineation of wetlands, replanting in disturbed areas and a plan for rehabilitation. The Hawkes were given until April 28 to produce the plan and begin work to restore the area.
The next meeting of the Rochester Conversation Commission is scheduled for February 21 at 7:00 pm in the town hall meeting room.
By Marilou Newell