Author Archives: Kim kastens

What would a good outcome to the Nagog Pond controversy look like?

There has been a lot of negativity around Concord’s proposal to expand its water treatment plant at Nagog Pond and Acton’s reaction to the same. In this post, let’s take a step back and try to envision what a good outcome might look like. A good outcome would safeguard the ecosystems of Nagog Pond and Nagog Brook, and would be a win-win-win for the three towns that share legal rights to the waters of Nagog Pond.

A good — and possible — outcome would:

  1. scale the water treatment capacity to the size of the pond
  2. develop a protocol for timing water withdrawals and releases so as to minimize harm to the downstream ecosystem and aquifer
  3. collaborate on data collection and hydrologic modeling to provide decision-makers with answers to “what if” questions
  4. construct and administer the water treatment plant as a regional facility with costs and water shared among the three towns

Kim Kastens floated some of these ideas in her talks at the First Parish of Concord on February 25 and at the Acton Senior Center on April 5. (Thanks to the attendees for their enthusiastic reception and insightful suggestions.) This post is not offered as a complete and final answer to the question posed in the title, but rather, as an invitation to consider a wider range of possibilities.

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Green Acton Position for April 2018 Nagog Pond Hearing

The controversy over Concord’s application to expand its water treatment plant at Nagog Pond has entered a new phase. Negotiators from the Acton and Concord Select Boards have brought forward another draft of the modified special permit decision, with a new set of terms and conditions. The Land Court has remanded the case back to the Acton Board of Selectmen, who will hold a hearing on April 26. A new round of public comments will be accepted, and the BoS will deliberate, and then vote.

If a supermajority (4 out of 5) of the Selectmen vote Yes, then the permit will have been approved with these new terms and conditions. Green Acton has taken a position urging the Selectmen to vote “no.” Our rationale for this position is explained below, followed by links to relevant documents.

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Nagog Pond & Nagog Brook

Nagog Pond is a kettle hole lake situated on the border between Acton and Littleton.  Water flows out of Nagog Pond into Nagog Brook, which flows into Nashoba Brook, and then into the Assabet River.

The town of Concord has been using Nagog Pond as a drinking water source, and in 2015, they applied for permits to greatly expand their water withdrawal and treatment capacity.  This application has been controversial.

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Green Acton Position on Town Meeting Article 26: Great Road Water Supply

Article 26 for Acton Town Meeting 2018 is a non-binding resolution which asks Town Meeting to approve an inter-municipal agreement between Acton and Concord.  In this agreement, Concord agrees to continue to provide water service to customers along Great Road (Rt 2A) in Acton.  In return, Acton agrees to allow Concord to build their proposed Water Treatment Plant on Nagog Pond, and to forebear from efforts to secure water from Nagog for Acton or to limit Concord’s Nagog withdrawals.

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New Version of Nagog Pond Draft Modified Special Permit Decision

Acton Town Hall has released a new version of the draft modified special permit decision for Concord’s application to increase its water treatment capacity at Nagog Pond. This document emerged from closed door sessions between the Acton and Concord Select Boards over the winter. It will be deliberated at a second “Remand Hearing” on Thursday, April 26, 2018, at 7pm in Acton Town Hall. [This is an update:  Originally posted date was March 29.]

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Select Boards schedule Nagog discussions

The Acton and Concord Select Boards have scheduled several important discussions about water from Nagog Pond over the coming weeks.

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Regional Water Sharing Discussed in Concord

On February 25, the Forum at the First Parish in Concord was the setting for a  lively and well-attended discussion on regional water sharing, using the ongoing controversy over Nagog Pond as a case study. Green Acton member Kim Kastens opened the event with a slide presentation in which she laid out the context for why water issues are now emerging in eastern Massachusetts, and then dived into the water-related aspects of the Nagog Pond case. She ended with two sets of conclusions: the first sketched a potential environment-friendly resolution to the current Nagog controversy. The second  was a broader set of lessons learned, applicable no matter what happens at Nagog Pond. Kastens’ full slide deck is here, and her “lessons learned” slide is below:

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Nagog Brook Resisting the Cold

The Green Acton Water Committee maintains a stream monitoring station on Nagog Brook. This being a low-tech, low-cost installation, our station requires that a volunteer scramble down to the site once a week to read the staff gage, which is like a giant ruler mounted vertically on a pole in the stream.

Last week (January 3), I (Kim) bundled up and trudged down through the snow to the site. The temperature had been below freezing continuously for more than nine days straight, with several nights dipping below 0°F.  I was sure I was wasting my time and would find the brook frozen over.

But to my surprise and pleasure, the brook at the gage station was burbling along, as merrily as ever. The water level was a bit lower than it had been in recent weeks, probably because of ice upstream, but the stream was definitely flowing. (Click link below to view video.)

Nagog Brook 3jan2018_notFrozen

This observation is significant because it confirms that there is substantial groundwater input into the brook. The temperature of groundwater doesn’t vary much over the course of the year, hovering around the average annual air temperature. Here in Massachusetts, that would be approximately 50°F, according to the EPA. During the recent remand hearing on Nagog Pond, Dr. Peter Shanahan, a hydrologist, testified on behalf of OARS that drawing down the water level in Nagog Pond by increasing the water withdrawal into Concord’s proposed water treatment plant could threaten the cold water fishery of Nagog Brook. The threat is two-fold.  First, there would be less water flowing over the spillway from the pond into the brook.  Second, there would be less hydraulic head to drive groundwater flow laterally into the brook. Groundwater input keeps the brook cool in summer (good for fish) and warm in winter.

 


Thanks to Dr. Peter Shanahan for confirming (email 3 jan 2018) that groundwater input was the plausible explanation for Nagog Brook’s open water throughout our recent cold snap.

The WRAC Rides Again

After a year or so of down time, the  Water Resources Advisory Committee (WRAC)  is resuming its responsibilities with a new charge and partially new membership.  The WRAC advises the Acton Board of Selectmen on issues relating to water resource systems in Acton, including water supply, surface water, groundwater, stormwater and wastewater.  

WRAC meetings are open to the public and are announced here.  Their next meeting will be held on Wednesday, December 13, 2017, at 7pm, at the Acton Water District Headquarters at 693 Massachusetts Avenue.  This could be an important meeting, as they will be brainstorming how to implement the three non-binding resolutions on water that were approved at the spring 2017 Town Meeting.

  • Article 26: Water Resources Study
  • Article 27: Water Resource Sharing
  • Article 28: Affirming Acton’s Right

How does Acton say “No” to Concord’s expansion of their Nagog Pond water treatment plant?

The dispute over Concord’s application to enlarge its water treatment plant at Nagog Pond seems to be coming down to a question of whether Acton’s elected leaders have the legal authority to say “no” to a development that is opposed by virtually every Acton resident who has submitted either oral or written testimony throughout the long series of hearings.

In this document, Green Acton member and former Selectman Terra Friedrichs has compiled cases in which various judges in Massachusetts have supported the local authority’s denial of a proposed project for various reasons. Continue reading