The September 21 meeting of the Rochester Conservation Commission mainly dealt with an Enforcement Order filed in December 2020 against A.D. Makepeace. The property in question is known as Old Swamp Reservoir located on County Road. The Enforcement Order is for 1,458 linear feet of reservoir bank, 17,001 square feet of bordering vegetated wetlands, 200,376 square feet of land under a waterbody, 29,305 square feet of bordering land subject to flooding, and 2,727 square feet of riverfront area deemed in need of restoration.
Representing the cranberry grower was Bill Madden of G.A.F. Engineering. Representing the Town of Rochester was peer-review consultant Mark Manganello of LEC Engineering.
Manganello detailed on-site conditions as they exist today, asserting the most critical part of the restoration is, in his estimation, removal of spoils from agricultural activities – dredging. He said that tall sand and gravel piles now lining the banks of the reservoir are slowly eroding into the water. Pictorial evidence of the size and the scope of the dredged spoils were given as testimony to the gravity of the situation. This material was removed after water was pumped out, allowing a layer of organic muck and then the rock and sand layer to be removed, he said.
Other areas impacted by the dredging, which took place in the summer of 2020, were bordering vegetated strips also along water bodies.
In other matters pertaining to the Enforcement Order, Manganello noted that construction sequencing should include a description of the scope of restoration along irrigation ditches, including methods for removing spoils, description of water-level lowering process, and description of erosion controls. He also said that a manmade island in the reservoir should probably be left as is with some enhancement of the plantings for wildlife habitation of the green space rather than making attempts to remove it. “It’s a big, complicated project,” Manganello stated, one that would require thoughtful planning.
Madden was in agreement with Manganello’s assessment of current conditions and other comments. He said he would discuss with his client what restoration activities could take place now and what needed to wait until after the growing season.
Commission member Ben Bailey questioned Manganello’s assessment that the biggest problem needing immediate action is the removal of the sand and gravel mounds. “What’s the emergency, it’s just going back where it came from.” Manganello responded that the disturbed muck layer supported wildlife and the sand had a negative impact on that wildlife. Bailey said, “Today it’s a sandy bottom, it’s just going back where it came from.” Manganello said, “It’s pretty standard to stop erosion into a resource area; that should be resolved immediately.” “I’ll agree to disagree,” Bailey offered.
Manganello stated that there was some “friction” between agricultural activities and protecting resource areas but that “something can be done to improve things in the short term.”
The hearing was continued to October 5.
Also continued was Bailey’s Notice of Intent filing for a 700-foot long roadway to access a single-family home. Commission member Dan Gagne questioned if there was a viable quorum, given when the notice was first submitted in April and since that time new members were added to the commission, and the number of hearings that were either never opened or continued. Bailey opted to have the hearing continued until October 5 to determine if new members can participate via the state-sponsored Mullin Rule that allows adjudicatory board members to miss one public hearing and still participate in the vote for a decision.
The Notice of Intent filing by Renewable Energy Development Partners, LLC was also continued to October 5.
The next meeting of the Rochester Conservation Commission is scheduled for Tuesday, October 5, at 7:00 pm.
Rochester Conservation Commission
By Marilou Newell