WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Conservation Commission last week approved a pond restoration project for a homeowner on Henderson Road.
Margot and Bill Moomaw asked the town to allow them to address nuisance vegetation, particularly bur reed, that has taken hold in their pond since they treated it for Eurasian milfoil nine years ago.
"With this submission, the Moomaws are requesting approval for a multi-year pond management plan, beginning with hydro-raking to remove the accumulated biomass, muck and silt in order to create better conditions for aquatic species, and to restore depth to the pond," the couple wrote in a letter supporting their application. "Post-hydro-raking, annual assessments of the pond will determine the use of targeted chemical means to control emergent nuisance vegetation with agents that are considered safe for aquatic species and humans."
Con Comm Chair Lauren Stevens recognized the efforts of the couple, each of whom brings expertise to the project. Margot Moomaw is a green design consultant for builders. Her husband is an emeritus professor of international environmental policy at Tufts University.
"I'd hope the Williamstown community could benefit from their experience in this pond renovation," Stevens said. "There are many, as [commissioner Henry Art] has pointed out on numerous occasions, many ponds in similar conditions, and owners are to one degree or another concerned about that.
"I think we should all be concerned about the loss of these ponds for numerous reasons, wildlife and others."
"I would like to add the approach being used here is minimal use of chemical control plant material rather than having [herbicides] as the starting point," Art said. "By physically removing organic matter deposited over the last 12 years-plus, removing by hydro-raking the invasive plants in there to re-establish the volume of the pond and then evaluating exactly how much licensed herbicides are appropriate for this environment is laudatory rather than just pouring the herbicide in."
Art said he hoped the thoughtful approach of the Moomaws could be an example for the rest of the community.
"It points to the need for the sharing of information about how this works and looking toward some sort of continuing maintenance expectations on the ponds in Williamstown, be they private property or golf courses or academic institutions," Art said. "We have a lot of ponds in Williamstown, none natural. All are dammed up brooks and creeks. They are going to silt in.
"At the same time, they represent an important resource for amphibian reproduction, fish, birds. There is great wildlife value to having ponds within our municipality."
The Moomaws noted another benefit of the pond on their property.
"We saved our neighbor's house with water from this pond five years ago," Bill Moomaw said.
"Three or four fire companies, including Pownal, Bennington and Williamstown all were putting hoses into that pond," Margot Moomaw added.
Before the commission could permit the new restoration work on the pond, it first had to clean up the Eurasian milfoil treatment the body OKed in 2012.
When Mark Stinson of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection reviewed the application for the new project, he noted that the Moomaws did not receive a certificate of compliance from the Con Comm for the work they did nearly a decade ago.
That request raised an issue that the commission does not see every day: the project technically did not meet all of the Con Comm's usual conditions, specifically the submission of a letter from a professional engineer attesting to the project's completion.
Town Conservation Agent Andrew Groff explained that, as they did last Thursday night, the Moomaws represented themselves during the 2012 Notice of Intent.
"It's only [listed as a condition on the 2012 order] because we moved the standard conditions," Groff said. "I can't see in the minutes any realization of what we'd done. Ninety-nine percent of the time, a professional engineer is representing applicants during the Notice of Intent process."
Commissioner Phil McKnight asked Groff whether the requirement of an engineer's letter is statutory, and Groff assured the commission that it is a local condition.
The Moomaws did provide similar evidence to what was sought by the condition — a post-treatment report from the only outside firm they hired, Sutton-based licensed herbicide applicator Aquatic Control Technology.
McKnight moved that the commission issue a certificate of compliance, recognizing that the condition of an engineer's letter is waived, "given the evidence of compliance with all of our other conditions."
To avoid a similar problem down the road with the work permitted on Thursday, McKnight moved that the commission include language indicating that the engineer's letter "may be waived by the commission if sufficient evidence is presented that all appropriate conditions have been met."
Both the Certificate of Compliance on the 2012 work and the NOI on the new pond restoration work were passed unanimously by the commission.
The commission also was unanimous in approving an application from the Williamstown Historical Museum, which asked for a negative determination of applicability of the Wetlands Protection Act for the planned removal of a historic barn at 1101 Green River Road.
Art noted that while the barn is in the outer riparian zone of the Green River, it also is across the road (Route 43) from the waterway.
"The dismantling of the barn, as long as they prevent sediments from coming into the road, will have zero impact on the functionality of the wetland forest and bordering vegetative wetland along the bank of the Green River across the street," Art said. "If it was on the other side of the road, I'd say we should move to having an NOI. This whole project, in my estimation, is not in play to have any impacts.
"They have indicated they will put erosion control devices between the barn and Green River Road, which should be more than sufficient to trap any sediments before they reach the river."
The plan is for the barn in question to be reassembled on the property of the museum, which, if the project moves forward, will be back before the Con Comm to seek approval for installing a concrete pad to ground the barn.
The commission's last piece of formal business at its Feb. 11 meeting was another certificate of compliance, this one for a home at 260 South St. Engineer John Dupras of North Adams' Trinity Engineering told the commission that the work met the town's conditions.
In other business last Thursday, Commissioner Tim Carr asked his colleagues for guidance about the path for a potential trail that is being considered from Spring Street that would link to the trail network at Mount Greylock, the state's highest point.
Carr said the route under consideration would pass through property under the care and custody of the commission, and he wanted to know how to put a request before the panel. Stevens suggested that the conversation start with Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation's Trails Committee since the non-profit provides oversight of trails in the town.
"The only caution being if you put in a trail, it's not much good unless it's maintained," Stevens said. "That's a good reason for going through their committee."
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Williamstown Finance Committee Reviews Town's Capital Plan
By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Finance Committee last week concluded its review of the town's fiscal 2022 spending plan and made plans to vote its recommendations next week.
The last major item up for discussion was the capital spending plan for FY22, which represents about 6 percent of town hall spending, or $650,000.
That represents a $90,800 increase from the current fiscal year, but as Town Manager Jason Hoch reminded the Fin Common on Wednesday, $650,000 is closer to what the town had been investing in infrastructure before it dialed back that budget last summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The largest single item in the capital plan is $203,000 for erosion control along the banks of the Hoosic River near Syndicate Road.
Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday urged Bay State residents currently eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations to find appointments before eligibility opens up to everyone 16 and older later this month. click for more