On September 22, 2018, Acton held its first “Water Workshop.” Representatives from the Board of Selectmen, the Acton Water District, Town staff, and selected Town committees worked together in small groups to consider five scenarios about possible future developments related to water in Acton.
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:
scale the water treatment capacity to the size of the pond
develop a protocol for timing water withdrawals and releases so as to minimize harm to the downstream ecosystem and aquifer
collaborate on data collection and hydrologic modeling to provide decision-makers with answers to “what if” questions
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.]
The Acton Water District is an independent government entity, separate from Acton Town Government. As such, it is led by a Board of Water Commissioners, analogous to the Board of Selectmen for the Town of Acton; both serve as the legislative bodies for their respective entities. The three Water Commissioners are elected officials, who serve three-year terms of office. In the upcoming Town election, two candidates will be competing for one available Water Commissioner seat: Len Phillips and Erika Amir-Lin.
The Water Committee of Green Acton posed a set of six questions to the two candidates, intended to help voters make more-informed decision. The questions and the candidates’ answers are shown below.
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: