Alex Ghiselin, Letter to Gazette: “Don’t let development encroach on our wetlands”

Alex Ghiselin is a former City Councilor for Ward 5. The Gazette publishes his letter to the editor today:

“Don’t let development encroach on our wetlands”

To the editor:

Northampton has a natural wetland system that protects us from flooding, nurtures biodiversity and filters our groundwater. Allowing development within 10 feet of this system in almost every residential district is not a good idea.

The failure of the storm water system built as a part of the Northampton High School renovation six years ago illustrates why protecting wetlands is so important. Silt has filled the retention pond so there is no capacity to slow a storm surge which now flows unimpeded into the Mill River and contributes to flooding downstream. This accumulated silt also raised the water table and spills ground water into nearby basements…

Without maintenance, these [storm water mitigation] systems are part of the problem, not the solution…

Wetlands do not need to be maintained; they just need to be protected.

Alex Ghiselin

See also:

City of Northampton, Memo from Mayor Clare Higgins to City
Councilors, “FY 2009 Capital Improvements Program Recommendations”

Bridge Street School – Detention Basin/Sewer Tie-in – $22,000
Repairing the three dry wells at Bridge Street School was ranked as the
[Northampton Public Schools’] second highest priority. The wells are
filled with silt and the ground water backs up into the building. The
DPW has cleaned the wells but the problem still exists due to the lack
of slope and the deteriorated condition of the wells.

Is the Proposed Wetlands Ordinance Similar to Current Buffer Zone Policy? Judge for Yourself
Some people appear to be consoling themselves that an increased amount of artificial or replacement wetlands will balance the harm from the stepped-up level of encroachment. Unfortunately, the failure rate for these mitigation schemes is high. See these pictures of mostly dead, polluted detention ponds from South Carolina, or just walk over to the detention ponds at Northampton High School (problems with silt build-up, water overflows into Mill River) and Carlon Drive (vegetation dead).

EPA: Do Stormwater Retention Ponds Contribute to Mosquito Problems?
Mosquito proliferation in stormwater ponds is a concern, especially when so many wet and dry ponds are in place and continue to be installed across the country. Many ponds are not properly maintained, particularly in cases where they are installed in subdivisions and other developments where the entity responsible for long-term maintenance is not clearly defined once the construction is complete…

EPA: Wetlands and Flood Protection
Wetlands within and downstream of urban areas are particularly valuable, counteracting the greatly increased rate and volume of surface-water runoff from pavement and buildings…

Northampton’s Flood and Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan: Floyd Flood Damage Reported Behind View Avenue; Avoid Building on Filled Wetlands
In a table of Existing Mitigation Strategies, the plan includes a “100 foot buffer around wetlands and the wetland resource area itself…” It says this strategy has been “Effective”, and says that an option to improve it would be to “Strengthen Wetland Ordinance”…

Gazette: Erosion Near New Southampton Subdivision: Detention Basin Under Scrutiny