Green Acton Position on Extending Nagog Pond Order of Conditions

At the Green Acton meeting on December 11, 2018, by consensus of the Directors present, Green Acton adopted the following position with respect to Concord’s application for a three-year extension to its Order of Conditions (“wetlands permit”) for the expansion of its water treatment facility at Nagog Pond:

In view of the important new information that has come to light in the three years since the Acton Conservation Commission last considered Concord’s expanded water treatment facility on Nagog Pond, Green Acton urges ConsCom to deny the requested three-year extension, invite a new Notice of Intent, and then hold a hearing that could deliberate on a wider range of potential environmental harms and remedies than were addressed in the original Order of Conditions.

Background

Three years ago, the Acton Conservation Commission issued an Order of Conditions (OOC, informally called a “wetlands permit”) for the expansion of Concord’s Water Treatment Plant at Nagog Pond. Such an OOC is good for three years, and Concord’s will expire on 6 January 2019. Concord has requested a three-year extension.

Under Acton’s wetlands bylaw and Massachusetts guidance to Conservation Commissions, such a request can be denied if significant new information has come to light. If the extension were denied, the project wouldn’t be over; most likely a new Notice of Intent would be submitted, a new hearing would be held, and a new Order of Conditions would be granted, which might include additional environmental protections.

As readers of the Green Acton website know, a lot has happened on the Nagog Pond front since January 2016. A great deal of new information came to light through the comment and review process on the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR), and during the series of special use permit hearings before Acton’s Board of Selectmen. Additional relevant information emerged during the 1st remand hearing and the 2nd remand hearing after Concord sued Acton.

At the Conservation Commission meeting on December 5, 2018, several Acton residents spoke about this new information and its significance. Acton ConsCom has no mechanism to hold an official hearing on an extension request, so these comments were accepted as “Citizens’ Concerns.” Carolyn Kiely reviewed the bylaws and guidance documents that encourage Conservation Commissions to scrutinize extension requests with as much rigor as the original Notice of Intent, and to deny the request if new information has become available and if that information indicates that the existing Order is not adequate to protect the environment.

Kim Kastens summarized the new information, including the U.S. Geological Survey’s firm-yield determination for Nagog Pond, the longer pipe and deeper intake level, and the potential damage to the downstream Cold Water Fish Resource posed by drawing down the level of the pond. Bob Sekuler offered suggestions of additional conditions that the Conservation Commission might consider, including in a more-protective OOC that might require a monitoring program and a limit on how low the pond might be drawn down below the spillway. Other citizens asked about how much of the pond would be drained and the process by which a decision would be made. The Commissioners chose not to make an immediate decision at the meeting, citing the complexity of the situation, especially for the newer Commissioners who had not participated in the 2015–2016 hearing and decision.

Links to Citizens’ Concerns from the December 5 ConsCom meeting are below, as is a table summarizing the new information, when it first became available, and why it is significant.

The next public discussion of this issue will be at the upcoming ConsCom meeting on Wednesday, December 19, in Room 204 of Town Hall. The meeting begins at 7:30pm; the Nagog Pond item is scheduled for 8:10pm. [filingsdocushare for meeting]

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