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:
Please see attached letter from the U.S. Board on Geographic Names accepting our proposal to make official the name, Marys Brook (apostrophes are not allowed) for the perennial stream that flows from Main Street in Acton, through the Acton Arboretum, joining with Coles Brook near Taylor Road and Route 2 (map attached).
The brook is named for Mary S. Michelman 2/14/1960 – 12/17/2010, Acton citizen, former president of Acton Citizens for Environmental Safety (ACES), founder of Acton Stream Teams, and assiduous environmental activist who fought for clean water in Acton.
Mary gave hundreds of volunteer hours researching and urging EPA and W.R. Grace to clean up the industrial pollution at the Acton W.R. Grace Superfund Cleanup site.
Mary died of cancer in 2010. The non-profit organization Green Acton has taken up the cause of environmental protection and conservation of local resources.
Marys Brook signs and a small plaque can be seen on Minot Avenue near the Conant School, and affixed to a trail boardwalk over the stream that now bears her name in the Acton Arboretum.
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.
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
The Acton Water Resources Advisory Committee (WRAC) is an official committee of the Town of Acton that advises the Board of Selectmen (BoS) on issues related to water resources in Acton, including water supply, surface water, groundwater, stormwater, and wastewater. Meetings are approximately monthly, are open to the public, and are announced here.
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
The dispute over Concord’s application to expand its water treatment capacity at Nagog Pond has entered a new phase. The Massachusetts Land Court remanded the issue back to the Acton Board of Selectmen for an additional round of public input and deliberation. New questions are emerging, and this post makes a start at answering some of them:
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 comments throughout the long series of hearings. In this post we have compiled lines of reasoning from throughout Massachusetts showing that local authorities have extensive powers to say “no” if they believe that a development will be “injurious.”
On Nov. 20, 2017, the Acton Board of Selectmen (BoS) will re-open the hearing for Concord’s proposed work to replace and upgrade their water pumping and treatment facility on Nagog Pond. Here’s a link to the hearing notice.
Green Acton’s position is to urge our Board of Selectmen to vote no on Concord’s application to expand their water treatment capacity at Nagog Pond. Here is a link to the complete position and rationale, agreed to with the unanimous consent of Green Acton’s directors.
The US Geological Survey maintains a continuously operating stream gauging station on Nashoba Brook, off of Wheeler Lane. You can go to their site and see the amount of water flowing through Nashoba Brook at any time of the day or night. Continue reading