Conservation Commission Remote Meeting

Monday, April 19, 7:00 pm until 10:00 pm
A meeting of the Conservation Commission

Conservation Commission Remote Meeting
Mon, Apr 19, 2021 7:00 PM - 10:00 PM (EDT)

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Meeting of Conservation Commission

Members: (Quorum)

  • Absent: Andrew Young
  • Absent: David Powicki
  • Remote: Isaiah Robison, Chair, at 7:01 PM
  • Remote: Ralph Tiner, at 7:05 PM
  • Remote: Jono Neiger, at 7:01 PM
  • Remote: Gail Berrigan, at 7:02 PM
  • Remote: Joan Deely, at 7:01 PM

Also Present:

  • Tessa Dowling Conservation Agent (submitting minutes)
  • Michael Downey (DCR)
  • Ryan & Sandi Castine

See original Agenda Approved Meeting Minutes

Meeting opened: 7:06 PM

Meeting closed: 9:52 PM

  1. Meeting Preliminaries

  2. Minutes Note: April 5 and April 19 2021 meeting minutes were approved at the May 3 2021 meeting

  3. Public Hearing

    • 7:09: Public Hearing for New England Central Railway Company

      General Discussion...
      Dowling met with Keith Morris from the New England Central Railway where the railroad intersects with Depot Rd and where there is a "no spray zone" indicated by yellow blaze next to a blue blaze on the tracks.
      Dowling screen shares a photo of the site and then the RDA sketch that shows what each color blaze indicates.
      The RDA is only used to approve the "no spray zone" locations. Morris told Dowling that he rides with the herbicide sprayer and ensures that the "no spray zones" are not sprayed with herbicides. The sprayer has multiple nozzles and can spray one side of the railroad without spraying the other side. Spraying does not take place on days with rain or high winds.
      Per Morris, the New England Central Railway will send a letter in the next few months to the Commission with a link to the Railway's operations manual which will detail what type of herbicide they will be using and the timing of the spraying.
      Per Tiner, the long "no spray zone" at the northern end of the railway would match with the large wetland area the Commission saw during the Eversource Right of Way project.
      Dowling screen shared the Determination paperwork for the Commission to review.

      MOTION, moved by Isaiah Robison, seconded by Joan Deely: to accept the New England Central Railway's map that outlines where the railroad can and cannot spray herbicides. .

      Pass: Aye: Isaiah Robison, Ralph Tiner, Gail Berrigan, Jono Neiger, Joan Deely. Not Present: David Powicki, Andrew Young.

    • 8:09: Public Hearing for Lot 1 Heminway Rd RDA/Castine

      General Discussion...
      The Castines have submitted a RDA application to permit the building of a house and septic system at Lot 10 on Hemenway Rd. An intermittent stream runs along the edge of the property. At the time of the site visit erosion control straw wattles paralleled the stream. The Castines asked the Commission if they could move the wattles closer to the stream to where they were located for a 2018 project on the property. The previous erosion control location is still marked by large boulders.
      Dowling screen shares a photo that shows the current location of the wattles and the stream and boulders.
      The Commission approves moving the erosion control to the boulder line.
      The Commission discusses whether to issue a Negative 1 or Negative 3 Determination of Applicability because if the intermittent stream does not have bordering vegetated wetlands or upstream wetlands than it is not protected by the Wetlands Protection Act and a negative 1 determination would be appropriate. The 2018 project Determination was issued as a negative 3 determination. The majority of Commissioners decided to issue a negative 3 Determination.
      Dowling screen shared the Determination paperwork for the Commission to review.
      The Commission required the following conditions for the project:
      1) The erosion control barrier is placed between the project site and the intermittent stream no closer to the stream than the barrier used for 2018 project on the site (marked by stones). The erosion control stays in place until the area is revegetated.
      2) The septic system and other disturbed areas are reseeded with grass.
      3) The Commission will be notified for a site visit in June 2022 for a post construction site visit to check that the area has revegetated to cover at least 75% of the disturbed areas.

      MOTION, moved by Joan Deely, seconded by Isaiah Robison: to issue a negative 3 Determination of Applicability for Lot 10 Hemenway Rd .

      Pass: Aye: Isaiah Robison, Ralph Tiner, Jono Neiger, Joan Deely. Abstain: Gail Berrigan. Not Present: David Powicki, Andrew Young.

  4. Administrative Matters

    • 7:32: Forest Cutting Plan policy

      General Discussion...
      Michael Downey, from DCR, joined the meeting to talk with the Commission. The Commission asked for guidance on what to look for in the Forest Cutting Plans and when they should visit the site.
      Per Downey, there is a ten day response period after the Forest Cutting Plan is received by DCR (and ideally the Commission on the same day). Ten days is a short window of time so it is helpful to have one Commission member who is the main contact with DCR and will report any issues. DCR and Commissions rely on the community and neighbors to the tree harvest property to report problems. It is helpful for the Commission to relay to DCR if there are any projects proposed on the same property as the Forest Cutting Plan. Generally DCR does not know why the landowner is cutting trees or hears that the logging is starting (the Forest Cutting Plan is valid for two years).
      Berrigan asks if there is value in reporting an issue after the response period is over?
      Per Downey, issues can be reported at any point.
      Nieger asks what are the top things to look for when reviewing a Plan?
      Per Downey, check 1) if the cutting will occur in sensitive areas, e.g. wetlands, 2) if the land will be used for development after the cut. Agricultural exemptions for tree cutting assume that the forest will be allowed to regenerate after the cut. This is a serious violation if the land is developed instead.
      It is helpful for the Forester for Leverett, Andrew Rawcliffe, is aware of vernal pools on the property or if there are town bylaws that give added protections to the property, e.g. wetland bylaws or scenic bylaws that protect stone walls.
      Dowling as talked with Rawcliffe on the phone and will invite him to a future meeting to introduce himself to the Commission.

    • 8:35: Bill Rivers Forest Management Plan

      General Discussion...
      The Commission and Downey discuss the Bill Rivers Forest Management Plan that was updated in 2020.
      Deely asks why the map of the different forest stands within the conservation area is a hand-drawn sketch.
      Per Downey, different foresters create the maps in different ways. You can ask for a hand-drawn map to be converted too a geo-referenced map and shared as a kml or shp file.
      Per Downey, page 20 of 23 in the Plan provides an overview of the management goals for the property. Downey points out three main goals: 1. increase the the forest understory and midstory structural complexity to create wildlife habitat, 2. increase the amount of coarse woody debris (which helps with #1), and 3. remove invasive plants before a tree harvest or avoid invaded areas because tree harvest equipment can spread invasives.
      Per Deely, the invasives mostly grow along the edge of the school property line and not within the forest.
      Per Downey, the Town's open space plan discusses the need to increase resiliency to climate change and addressing these management goals would improve resiliency.
      Deely asks about the deer pressure on the property.
      Per Downey, Mass Wildlife would have the numbers of how many deer are in the area.
      Deely asks if the forest naturally regenerates after the cut.
      Per Downey, the goal is for the forest to elf renew but there are management practices that help regeneration.
      Dowling asks about grants to help pay for management projects.
      Per Downey, NRCS no longer funds municipalities but DCR offers Working Forest Initiative grants for $10,000-$12,000 per town. The grants are accepted on a rolling basis. Twenty-five percent of the grant project must be funded by the town but the 25% can be in-kind services. Commercial harvests are not accepted. The grant can fund invasive species removal, a 3-5 acre demonstration harvest, and community outreach. DCR has outreach materials that it can share for free to the town.
      DCR will be releasing funds for to support creating town climate stewardship plans in 2022 and renewing forest management plans can be part of an application to that program. DCR will also send out an invitation to a free three part webinar about climate change and grant opportunities.
      The Commission discusses next steps. They will focus on creating a Bill Rivers project that would fit the Working Forest Initiative grant. Removing invasive plants might make sense.
      Per Robison, Community Preservation Act funds could help with the 25% of the project cost that comes from the town.

    • 9:47: Land Conservation and Stewardship Discussion

      General Discussion...
      The discussion about big picture goals for Conservation in town (buying land and stewarding current conserved areas) and deciding how to used the Vansteenberg Estate gift were postponed to a future meeting.

  5. Old Business

  6. New Business

    • 9:41: Site visit scheduling

      General Discussion...
      A new Notice of Intent application was submitted for a driveway project on Richardson Rd. The Commission discussed dates for a site visit to the property and agreed that Dowling would ask the applicants whether April 27th or April 28th would work for a visit.

  7. Other New Business not considered as of the date of this notice

  8. Meeting Wrap-up

The listing of matters is those reasonably anticipated by the Chair which may be discussed at the meeting. Not all items listed may in fact be discussed and other items not listed may also be brought up for discussion to the extent permitted by law.

Minutes prepared by Tessa Dowling

Minutes approved on Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Posted to: Conservation Commission