Carver: North Weston Cranberry: commercial sand and gravel mining, $104,500 in state taxpayer subsidies for cranberry bog renovation, and industrial solar with battery on wetland bogs

  Katherine Harrelson  Aquifer

The company is doing sand and gravel mining while collecting taxpayer subsidies for “bog renovation”

Has collected at least $104,500 in state taxpayer subsidies while mining at least $1.2 million in sand and gravel at the same site and maybe more in prior years

State grant funds to be used to buy bog renovation materials from Ryco Excavating — is Ryco excavating it from Weston’s site and selling it back?

Grant application inaccurately claims “project not directly over aquifer”

Also received $22,641 in federal farm grants, 2019-2021

MassDEP erroneously claims although the work is in wetlands, it is exempt agriculture

In 2021 Carver ERC grants Earth Removal Permit for $1.2 million worth of sand and gravel removal for “cranberry agriculture’

In 2021, the Carver Earth Removal Committee permitted this project based on 10 year old plans by Gilmore Associates. The Westons claim this activity is exempt from the Wetlands Protection Act and local wetlands bylaw. MassDEP agreed.

See the 2020 Gilmore plans and the 2021 earth removal permit for 120,000 cubic yards below.

The April 26, 2023, the Carver Earth Removal Committee scheduled a meeting to hear a request from the
Weston’s for “more loads per day to move across the street to another property.” The agenda violated the Open Meeting Law because it was not posted in time so the meeting was postponed. Currently, the Town refuses to make information of how many “more loads” are proposed. Weston’s mining does not fit the definition of “Agricultural Excavation” under the ERC Bylaw, is not exempt from the Wetlands Protection Act as DEP claims, and is not agricultural use of the land for Chapter 61A taxes. This is a stand alone commercial mining operation.

Mass Department of Agriculture grants

In 2023, North Weston Cranberry (Eric and Elaine) received a $32,500.00 state grant to “renovate” 2.1 acres of cranberry bogs on the same site where they are doing the $1.2 million earth removal operation — with more earth removal planned, according to their 2023 request for “more loads.” The Weston’s have town approval for solar and battery storage on 18.95 acres of wetland bogs at the same location. The bogs will be taken out of production.

State records show that since 2020, the Westons have received a total of $104,500 in taxpayer subsidies from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources “Cranberry Revitalization Grant” program. Grants are:

2020: $22,000

2021: $50,000

2023: $32,500

*According to Weston’s 2022-2023 application, in 2020 Weston renovated 1.77 acres of bogs using the MDAR grant funds.  According to the Environmental Working Group data base of U.S. Department of Agriculture farm subsidies, North Weston received $22,641 in grants from 2019 to 2021. Eric Weston received an additional $16,404.00.

Here is a map of the 2022-2023 “bog renovation” area from Weston’s 2022-2023 MDAR application. It is described as 0 Plymouth Street, Carver. This is shown on the map above.

Here is the Weston’s MDAR application.

Below: excerpt from Mass Department of Agriculture “Story Map” showing the location of the 2020 $50,000.00 grant to the Westons for a cranberry bog renovation on the same site as the 2022 grant.

The Weston’s 2022-2023 MDAR grant application shows Weston will be buying stone from Ryco Excavating to renovate the bog. Is this the same material Ryco is excavating from Weston’s land under the earth removal permit and then selling back to Weston using the state grant? The application refers to “stripping of high spots” and that they will have “sand hauled and graded out over bed.” Is this application withholding material information about the scope of this project? What is the relation to the 120,000 cubic yard earth removal operation adjacent to the site?

MassDEP confirms work in wetlands, but claims it is “agriculture” and exempt from the wetlands laws 

See MassDEP’s May 25, 2022 letter here. The agency says this is expansion of a “tailwater recovery pond” and is in a wetland resource area but it is exempt as agriculture. This is not credible.  According to Weston’s plans for the 18.95 acres of large ground mounted solar (see below) 18.95 acres of bogs will be retired when solar is installed. Why is it necessary to “expand” the tailwater pond if there will be few acres of bogs? 

Solar & Battery Storage (BESS) subsidized by electric rate payers under state “SMART” solar program

Weston has local approval for solar to be installed on 18.95 acres of Weston’s bogs at this location. “Under the proposed plan, the upland bogs will be retired when the solar facility is installed” according to the Carver Planning Board documents from June 2021. What is the cumulative impact of the earth removal and solar with battery storage on this site? The project is called “NW Plymouth Street Solar LLC) to be located on Map 48, Lots 2, 6 and 7. The earth removal is on Lots 2 and 8.

Who’s who

North Weston Cranberries is owned and operated by Eric and Elaine Weston. They are related to the Westons in Carver that are also in the industrial sand and gravel mining industry — disguising it as cranberry agriculture. Gary and Craig Weston run the Franklin Marsh mining operation with Ryco Excavating. Gary and Craig Weston are also leasing their cranberry land to Power Plus of Texas for a 150 Megawatt industrial battery storage facility in a residential neighborhood. Cranberry agriculture?

Elaine Weston was the secretary for the Earth Removal Committee for years and was responsible for all the records and permits. During those years family members received earth removal permits or were working for earth removal operations. What role did Elaine Weston play in the ERC’s printing press for earth removal permits for the cranberry industry?

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