Gazette: “Should developers police own projects?”

The lead article in today’s Gazette discusses how in Massachusetts, “land developers are often responsible for policing environmental standards on their own projects”. Concerns are raised about weak compliance, underscoring why the North Street Neighborhood Association derives little comfort from phrases like “extraordinary mitigation” in the new wetlands ordinance. Developers’ plans typically look good on paper, but the real-world track record of wetlands mitigation is troubled.

In five years on the Conservation Commission, Chairman Robert Floyd said he has never seen a developer’s compliance monitor admit to a violation in Southampton.

‘It’s amazing that everything runs so perfect,’ he said, with evident sarcasm.

Floyd and his panel are now engaged in a review of a severe stream bank erosion – and trying to determine whether a nearby housing subdivision by developer James Boyle is responsible…

Jane Winn, executive director for the Berkshire Environmental Action Team, a nonprofit advocacy group, said that in her experience, lackluster monitoring by developers is common…

Hadley Conservation Commission Chairwoman Alexandra Dawson, an environmental attorney, said compliance monitoring is largely ineffective…

‘We don’t have a money source to be an effective monitor of construction projects,’ said Floyd, the chairman of Southampton’s Conservation Commission. ‘It’s a continuous battle to protect the wetlands…’

Dawson, the Hadley official and environmental activist, said communities should pass bylaws requiring developers to pay for a clerk of the works, who would contract with the town and would be required to visit and inspect a project a certain number of hours per week.

See also:

Gazette: Erosion Near New Southampton Subdivision: Detention Basin Under Scrutiny
Floyd said a stormwater detention basin 300 feet from the top of the approximately 60-foot slope may be the cause of the blowout, which was reported by an abutter in May after heavy rainfall…

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…

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

Mike Kirby: Compensatory Wetland on Carlon Drive Not Working
In Carlon Drive, they simply scooped out a hole in the swamp-bottom, and called it a detention structure. Today it is just a pond, and a stagnant smelly one. It was designed to have a dry forebay, and a shallow main chamber was supposed to have only about 6 inches of water in it. This was supposed to be a compensatory wetland, full of cattails and wildflowers. A rock check dam was supposed to hold back the “first flush” off the parking lots and trap pollutants, and outflow from it was supposed to feed the wet part of the detention pond. Here rain water pouring off the new parking areas and street was supposed to be stored, and discharged safely.

That was the plan. Today if you stand by the pond and look down into it, you’ll see the check dam is now about two feet underwater. You can’t even see where they planted the marshgrass and flowers. The area is under water. Even in a fairly dry summer, the detention pond is only about a foot and a half from the top of the bank. There’s no storage to speak of, no discharge, no filtering. As it is constructed now, grey water from the parking lots and the access street goes directly into the swamp and the Connecticut River.

Greenfield’s Quarter-Million-Dollar Flooding Fix Includes Razing a 4-Family House
“The development has eliminated a large amount of land that used to absorb rainwater, but now just sends it on to the brook…”

Photos Show: Man-Made Lakes and Stormwater Retention Systems Are No Substitute for Natural Wetlands

Wetland Values
Flood damage control: Wetlands adjacent to rivers (riparian wetlands) can easily survive inundation by floodwaters and often actually benefit from regular flooding. Water that is allowed to flow over wetlands is slowed and partially absorbed, thereby reducing flood damage downstream. Wetlands are said to act as sponges because wetland soils can readily absorb water, and depressions associated with wetlands can fill up. This has the effect of trapping and slowly releasing water that would otherwise rush into the channel and contribute to flooding downstream…