Vernal Pool Assessment Protocol for Wetlands Off North Street

Here are excerpts from the Vernal Pool Assessment Protocol (PDF, 204KB) prepared by LEC Environmental Consultants for Kohl Construction. Kohl needs to assess the probable vernal pools on its property off North Street before attempting to proceed with its plans to build 26 condo units in the area. Northampton’s Conservation Commission approved this protocol on March 13 with minor conditions (e.g. site visits should not take place on consecutive days).

…While Ms. Hale’s data verifies that potentially certifiable Vernal Pools exist on-site (Vernal Pool Resource Areas protected under the City of Northampton Wetlands Protection Ordinance, Chapter 337), the functional limits of the potentially certifiable Vernal Pools have not yet been determined. Consequently, LEC will conduct multiple site evaluations throughout the growing season (March 15 through October 15, as referenced within the Ordinance) to document the presence of surface waters needed over 60 consecutive days, as required under Ordinance and defined within 310 CMR 10.04 (Vernal pool habitat) of the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act Regulations. At a minimum, LEC will conduct site visits twice a week commencing on March 15th through June 1st. Site visits thereafter will be dictated by the presence of surface waters, but at a minimum, at least twice a month through October 15th. Furthermore, LEC will monitor precipitation data to ensure that rainfall during the observation period is at least 75% of the average over the last 20 years in Northampton, as required under the Ordinance.

In addition to documenting the presence of surface waters, LEC personnel will search the on-site BVW [bordering vegetated wetland] system for evidence of amphibian breeding activity (e.g., mated pairs, egg masses, transforming tadpoles/juveniles, etc.) and will record any amphibian chorusing. LEC will be in direct contact with the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP) to review reported amphibian movement in the region. If the depressions become dry during the surveying period, LEC will search for the presence of fingernail clams or amphibious air-breathing snails, the cases of caddisfly (Order: Trichoptera) larvae, or the exuvia (shed exoskeleton) of dragonflies and damselflies (Order: Odonata; Suborders: Zygoptera and Anisoptera, respectively).

LEC will establish a series of fixed photographic stations to document the presence of surface waters over the surveying period. These stations will be located by a survey crew. A combination of surveyor’s tape, stick-in flags, and/or spray paint will be utilized as needed to demarcate data collection and reference points. Benchmarks will also be established at various locations within the scattered depressions within the BVW system to monitor fluctuating water levels. Depths will be recorded at each site visit. Furthermore, all identified amphibian egg masses (signs of amphibian breeding activity) will be photographed, demarcated in the field, and located with reference to previously established survey points.

As required, a Scientific Collection Permit Application is being submitted to NHESP. If the data collected indicates a certifiable Vernal Pool(s), LEC will complete a Vernal Pool Field Observation Form along with the requisite materials for submission to NHESP and the Northampton Conservation Commission…

Signing the protocol are Brian Madden, Wildlife Scientist, and Ann M. Marton, President and Director of Ecological Services.

See also:

Conservation Commission Approves Vernal Pool Assessment Protocol on Kohl Property (3/13/08)

Conservation Commission Votes to Delay Vernal Pool Delineation on Kohl Property to Spring 2008 (8/23/07)

Report on Kohl’s Property by Alec MacLeod, Environmental Scientist: Indications of Vernal Pool Habitat (8/22/07)

Northampton Redoubt: Videos and photographs of a walking tour of North Street Northampton’s Mill Yard Brook and vernal pools