“Degraded” Wetlands Can Get a Lot Worse

Over the past year or so, Kohl Construction and even some members of the Conservation Commission have noted that the wetlands and buffer zone off North Street are “degraded with masonry and other construction and road building debris, as well as invasive plant species”.

While it’s true this area is not perfect, it’s still an attractive greenspace that’s a major amenity to the neighborhood. Things can get a lot worse. One bad case is the Back Stevens Conservation Property in South Hadley. Thomas Wallace wrote last March in the Gazette:

In the early ’70s, all this began to end when the South Hadley
Conservation Commission (SHCC) granted permission to the Massachusetts
state Highway Department to dump all that problematic drainage waters
from the Plains areas into the ravine in back of the Plains School ball
field. Suddenly, one of the spring-fed brooks feeding the trout pond
became the receptor for all drainage from the new Route 202 and 33
intersection, along with the surrounding neighborhood, streets and
parking lots. That was a nefarious decision at best.

The 2-inch, 18-inch and 36-inch concrete pipes began to spew gas,
oil, grease, salt, pesticides, fertilizer, etc. into a pristine wetland

Every time it rained now, both ponds would turn brown. Even during
dry spells when the muddy waters settled, the ponds lost that clear,
clean quality. They took on a permanent greenish tint. The upper pond
began to fill in at an alarming rate but nothing was done…

The next tragedy to visit this wetland was when the SHCC did yet
another study of regulations and order of conditions, and then allowed
the town to dump the problematic flood waters from the South Hadley
High School athletic fields into the empty upper pond, which found its
way to the lower pond. Now the light green tinge in the lower pond
water turned dark green from fertilized waters oozing in from the
athletic fields, and when conditions are right, football size hunks of
algae form. Much of the endemic fish population in the lower pond had
died out by now…

Holding capacity of the lower pond had been destroyed from the
thousands of tons of mud filling it in as a direct result of the SHCC
letting the state dump polluted flood waters from the Plains area into
that once pristine wetland area…

The Black Stevens Conservation Property has turned into a very empty
place. No fisherman, walks, birds, squirrels or turtles are there
anymore to speak of…

Consider also the troubled record of stormwater mitigation schemes…

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

1 min 9 sec from the end of the presentation

sheen of oil covers a portion of the stormwater retention system at
Towne Centre in Mount Pleasant. The system is designed to capture
leaking motor oil, antifreeze, brake dust, fertilizer and other urban
runoff from impervious surfaces such as pavement. Under federal
guidelines, this pond is considered a man-made wetland.”

1 min 1 sec from the end of the presentation

“A stormwater pond is filled with algae at Towne Center at Mount Pleasant.”

0 min 53 sec from the end of the presentation

stands at the edge of a murky stormwater retention pond in Ivy Hall
that Everett said was once a forest-lined isolated wetland. While the
low grass held carnivorous sundew plants, the stump-filled water was
largely devoid of visible aquatic life. ‘This looks awful,’ she said.”

0 min 45 sec from the end of the presentation

points to a patch of algae growing along the banks of a stormwater
retention pond at Belle Hall Plantation in Mount Pleasant. Though the
pond is aerated by a fountain, heavy flows of fertilizers can
contribute to the algae’s growth…”

0 min 37 sec from the end of the presentation

band of white pollutants and algae float at the top of a stormwater
retention pond at Belle Hall Plantation. Though created to handle
pollution and often full of mosquito larvae, this type of pond is
considered a functioning wetland under definitions by the U.S.
Department of the Interior.”

Carlon Drive: Compensatory Wetland Not Working
Mike Kirby writes:
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

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

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.

Mosquito Control Practices Near Wetlands: Methods, Risks and Limits
Constructed (artificial) wetlands, built to manage and treat urban
storm and/or wastewater, come in various formats; they may start out as
simple vegetated pools but can develop into dense swamps. They have the
potential to be more productive of mosquitoes than their natural
counterparts, and must be carefully assessed for mosquito productivity
and management…

Shallow vegetated water typically supports more mosquito
breeding; deep pools with steep and deep edges, and no emergent or
surface vegetation, provide less suitable habitat for mosquitoes.

Any wetland area, constructed as a shallow vegetated pond, will be a major concern for mosquito breeding…

The Planning Department has been zealous to conserve natural space in the outlying parts of the city. That’s praiseworthy, but our in-town wetlands and buffers deserve respect also, for their flood protection, pollution control, and the physical and psychological benefits they bring to large numbers of nearby residents.