Community Land & Water Coalition May Newsletter

  Katherine Harrelson 

Welcome to the May 15 edition of the Community Land and Water Coalition (CLWC) newsletter from Southeastern Massachusetts, where community members are coming together to protect our land and water from rampant and uncontrolled sand and gravel mining and rapid development that is irreversibly changing the character of our region. Seven towns share the Plymouth Carver Sole Source Aquifer. Our newsletter shows the many ways people are coming together to work for clean water and the health and well being of all.

This is the first edition of our new bi-monthly newsletter format, we hope you enjoy! Below you will find information about last month’s town meetings, recent news and updates by town, statewide news, upcoming events, and descriptions of previous events. Your hard work and perseverance has been paying off and we have some big wins to celebrate. 

Your friends at CLWC

In a Major Development Impacting State Clean Energy Transition, Siting Board Rules Unanimously It Lacks Jurisdiction Over Carver Cranberry Point and Medway Grid Battery Storage Facilities

A big win for local community and proper energy siting! On May 10, 2023, the Massachusetts Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB) voted unanimously to reject the Cranberry Point petition to construct a 150 megawatt lithium ion battery storage facility proposed for a residential neighborhood and cranberry agricultural land in Carver. Access the RTO article here.

Bryan Betram, counsel for Save the Pine Barrens in the EFSB proceeding stated, “The EFSB’s decision shows thoughtful consideration about the new and novel issues posed by battery energy storage facilities. As the EFSB recognized, the Legislature must carefully consider those issues and enact legislation before State agencies have authority to approve their siting. This decision should spur an important public discussion about how to site and regulate these facilities in a way that balances the Commonwealth’s need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with the public’s need to ensure these facilities are safely sited and their impacts on communities are minimized and mitigated.” 

Spring 2023 Town Meeting Round-Up

Town Meetings serve as the legislative component of local government in most communities in Southeastern Massachusetts. Residents and town board and committees can propose articles for vote to change laws. Find out more on the State website 
This year, Spring Town Meetings across the region saw voters come to the polls and vote resoundingly for warrant articles that protect our water, forests and communities.

Carver Town Meeting (April 11)

Voters overwhelmingly passed three articles to strengthen local zoning control over large ground mounted solar installations and Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS). These Articles, 27, 28 and 29 were recommended by the Town’s Solar Battery Storage Moratorium Committee after the Town voted overwhelmingly in 2022 for a moratorium on solar and battery storage.

In addition, local residents petitioned 9 articles to be placed on the Town Meeting Warrant to address concerns about sand and gravel mining, large solar, battery storage and real estate taxes for sand mining sites.Carver Concerned Citizens spearheaded the effort for these articles,  Articles 35 to 43. While they did not pass, they raised awareness about the regional concern for our drinking water and communities. 

Wareham  Town Meeting (April 24) 

Voters overwhelmingly voted YES to authorize the Selectboard to spend $50,000 to audit past and ongoing sand and gravel mining operations. See, Wareham Week article. Last year,  Town Meeting overwhelmingly voted YES to urge the Selectboard to audit sand and gravel removal by AD Makepeace Company. The 2023 vote gives the Town the money to do what the voters asked in 2022.

They also voted YES to urge the Selectboard to hold A.D. Makepeace responsible for its share of liability for the unsafe Parker Mills Dam. For over a decade, Makepeace has refused to take financial responsibility for its share of the ownership of the dam that is risking public safety, economic damage and impairing river health. Legal documents show Makepeace owns a share of the dam but it still won’t acknowledge its financial responsibility, trying to put the entire financial burden on taxpayers. The company is blocking efforts to move ahead with the Town’s plan for dam safety improvements and ecological restoration. The vote will enable the town to move ahead.

Finally, Town Meeting voted to allocate $48,000 in Community Preservation Act funds to conserve 12 acres of land near Red Brook Road. The conservation purchase will provide a link to unite Wareham Land Trust and Onset Water District trails.

Kingston Town Meeting (April 29) 

Residents debated several articles and appropriations related to concerns about uncontrolled growth and impact on the drinking water. Recorded live here

They voted YES to adopt an amazing Bylaw to protect trees!  Article 38 added chapter 26 to the General Bylaws to add a Section called “Land Clearing, Grading and Protection of Trees By-Law.” It requires a “Site Alteration Special Permit” for clearing of land over 40,000 square feet with other levels of town review for clearing of between 15,000 and 20,000 square feet. The Bylaw cites the purpose to include protecting the health, safety and welfare, protect water quality, prevent erosion, and protect scenic, archeological and historic resources. See the Bylaw here.

Updated Kingston’s Wetlands Protection By-Law, including increasing abutter notification distances from 100 to 300 feet, allowing the Commission to take research-based climate and sea-level rise predictions into account when reviewing filings, extends jurisdiction by 100 feet in cases where more than ten feet of excavation or fill is proposed. In general the rewrite makes the by-law easier to interpret and follow, and gives the Commission supportive language for legal challenges. 

Article 40 added to protection of forests and water by transferring about 50 acres of Town-owned pristine Atlantic Coastal Pine Barrens habitat to the Town’s Conservation Commission for long-term protection. The land is contiguous with Camp Nekon, a Town conservation property, and includes the fire tower on Monk’s Hill, the highest point in Kingston. The land will be open to the public for passive recreation. Camp Nekon can be accessed from Monks Hill Rd or Raboth Rd, see the Kingston Conservation website for a trail map

Voters unanimously rejected Articles 47 and 48 which were petitioned by the sand and gravel mining industry. The articles would have amended the Town zoning bylaws to allow the use of “filling and reclamation of land.” This was specifically proposed to allow O’Donnell Sand & Gravel to continue to dump waste in the gravel pit hole the company created by mining over the last 40 years. Listen to the debate on this article on You Tube: 3:43:30

See the Kingston Warrant here

Read more here: Plymouth County Observer here

News Round-UP By Town


Large ground mounted solar installations (LGMSI)

Public concerns about impacts of proposals for 5 more large ground mounted solar projects on numerous issues including drinking water, wetlands, climate resiliency, forests, town’s financial exposure for decommissioning costs and battery storage safety. Most of the LGMSI will impact Indigenous cultural history by excavation and destruction of forests and ancient ways that are evidence of the millennia of use and occupation of the land by the Wampanog People who called Wareham Nepinnae Kekit, or summer home. The Town seal memorializes this. Learn more about the Wampanoag Language Reclamation Project here.

Official Seal of the Town of Wareham

Wareham already has 19 large ground mounted solar installations most of which have clear-cut pristine Pine Barrens forest. They are all located over the Plymouth Carver Sole Source Aquifer. There are an unknown number of lithium ion batteries installed around the Town at these solar sites. The cumulative impacts of the 19 existing large ground-mounted solar installations and 5 proposed LGMSI have not been addressed. Huge swaths of forest in Wareham are being cut down for solar, fragmenting wildlife corridors, altering runoff and recharge patterns, threatening the quality of drinking water, and threatening the quality of life in this Town.

Proposals for five more LGMSI, a total of 320 acres, are being addressed in various permit and legal proceedings. Please stay tuned and help our efforts to protect these iconic forested lands steeped with Indigenous history. 

  • Longroad Energy LLC-Colorado, 0 Route 25. After eighteen months of public hearings, the Wareham Planning Board voted to reject the site plan application for this approximately 20-acre LGMSI next to a cranberry bog. See the  Wareham Week article. On April 27, 2023, the Board met and voted to rescind that vote and reopen the public hearing to obtain more information on impacts to drinking water and the safety of the battery storage system (BESS). The new public hearing date has not been set yet.
  • AD Makepeace/Borrego-New Leaf Solar-California to be located at 140 Tihonet Road. The LGMSI will clear-cut 65 acres of pristine Pine Barrens forests and harm wetlands, water quality and wildlife habitat, and mine over a million cubic yards of sand, leveling one of the regions last remaining hills. In a win for local residents seeking to protect the forests and waterways, on March 27, 2023, Plymouth Superior Court Judge Buckley ruled that two Wareham residents have legal standing to challenge the Town’s grant of a wetlands permit for this project. The case will proceed to develop the evidence. A decision can be expected by the end of 2023.
  • AD Makepeace/Borrego-New Leaf-California LGMSI to be located at 150 Tihonet Road and 27 Charge Pond Road. The Planning Board approvals for these two LGMSI expired in late 2022. The Planning Board has not yet ruled on extensions. The Board is expected to vote on May 22. At stake is 105 acres of pristine Pine Barrens forests including Priority Habitat for rare and endangered species.
  • BE RE LLC-Colorado/Rocky Maple Cranberry LGMSI, 110 acres in the riverfront area of the Weweantic River. The solar developer is challenging the Wareham Conservation Commission’s decision to deny the project a wetlands permit. Save the Pine Barrens and a Ten Wareham Residents group are supporting the Town of Wareham in defending the Conservation Commission. The parties filed briefs and the case is pending before the DEP’s Office of Appeals and Dispute Resolution (OADR). 
  • ConEdison/Atlantic Engineers LGMSI, 91 & 101 Fearing Hill Road: This project is proposed for a historic and scenic hillside adjoining Town conservation land. The solar project will level the site, destroy 20 acres of forest and isolate a continuous wetland on its southern side. The site is directly upgradient of the Weweantic River and residential drinking water wells.  The Conservation Commission and the developer sued in Superior court and also appealed to MassDEP. Read the Wareham Week story here


Legal and permitting actions

Mining operation, 277 Meadow Street: Alex Johnson Cranberry-Bette Maki and The Lopes Companies LLC (excavating contractor)

On April 12, 2023, a lawsuit was filed by residents in Superior Court for negligence, trespass and nuisance and to revoke the new earth removal permit issued by the Carver Earth Removal Committee for the site.  This 12-year operation is being done under the false pretense of a cranberry “tailwater recovery pond.”  What is a “tailwater recovery pond” for cranberry bogs? Find out more here

Wind-blown dust from the Maki-Lopes open pit mine on Meadow Street covers homes and property. Photo: March 27, 2023

Mining operation: Johnson Cranberry-Ryco Excavating mining operation on Fuller and Purchase Streets 

On March 29, 2023, the Earth Removal Committee voted to allow Van Johnson to continue the decade-long mining operation. Abutting drinking wells have gone dry, and residents have been harmed and are still being harmed by emissions of dust on their property, noise, vibration and truck traffic for a decade. This mining operation is being conducted under the false pretense of cranberry agriculture.

Mining operation: Weston Cranberries-Elaine and Eric Weston

Request for expansion of Earth Removal Permit for commercial mining operation off Plymouth Street: On May 31 the Earth Removal Committee will hold a meeting on whether to grant Eric and Elaine Weston of Weston Cranberries permission to “take more loads” from their 120,000 mining operation adjoining wetlands and cranberry bogs. This mining operation is being done under the false pretense of cranberry farming. Please attend! 

Location of Weston Cranberry mining, solar and cranberry bog “renovation” project, off Plymouth Street, Carver

Sand and gravel distribution facility Federal Road: Read Custom Soils (owned by AD Makepeace)

On April 13, 2023, Save the Pine Barrens/CLWC sent a demand for enforcement to the Carver Building Inspector to enforce the Carver zoning bylaw and cease and desist for violations of the zoning law at this site.  Makepeace portrayed this operation as an “agricultural project” in state environmental review documents.

Mining operations 6 Sites, Federal Road: Lawsuit against AD Makepeace, Read Custom Soils, Carver ERC

A.D. Makepeace’s incredibly destructive and unlawful industrial scale mining operations continue in an area covering about 2.1 square miles. It is destroying hundreds of acres of pine barrens and forested lands to extract sand and gravel. A lawsuit was filed in August 2022 by Ten Residents including five members of the Wampanoag Tribes of Herring Pond, Aquinnah and Mashpee. AD Makepeace and the Town of Carver have asked the court to dismiss the case. A decision is expected in May. In the meantime, the Town’s Earth Removal Bylaw, which is at the heart of the case, was mysteriously altered in a way that helps Makepeace. The Plaintiffs’ lawyers brought this to the court’s attention in an emergency motion on April 26, 2023.

The recent alteration of the Carver Bylaw, in a way that help’s Makepeace in a lawsuit, is the second time a town document was altered to help Makepeace. In Wareham in 2021, the Town Clerk altered an official document and submitted it to the court to help Makepeace. When the inaccurate document was exposed by the residents’ lawyers, the Clerk was forced to withdraw it.


Protecting wetlands, coastal plain ponds and water quality

After years of regulators dragging their feet and not taking action, CLWC stepped up to help protect West Pond from wetlands violations that have gone unaddressed and ignored by the Plymouth Conservation Commission for years.  West Pond is a Great Pond of the Commonwealth and a Priority Habitat for Rare and Endangered Species protected under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Program. It is an iconic coastal plain pond and is adjacent to Myles Standish State Forest.

Plymouth Conservation Commission and the MassDEP have ignored the violations of the MESA and the wetlands laws caused by the landowner clearing and stripping wetlands, clearcutting forests and eliminating rare and endangered species habitat.  A local resident, left with no alternative, was forced to appeal to the Mass OADR for a hearing. Still, nothing was done.

In 2023, the landowner filed a request for a permit from the Plymouth Conservation Commission to install a pier and dock.  CLWC stepped in with technical assistance and a biological survey to certify the vernal pool spanning part of the site and to help the local resident. 

A public hearing was scheduled for May 2, 2023 before the Conservation Commission. Perhaps due to the watchful oversight of CLWC working together with the neighbor,  state NHESP ordered the landowner to do a biological survey of the plants and animals protected under MESA. With that, the May 2, 2023 public hearing on the pier and dock was continued until the landowner complies with the NHESP directive. Stay tuned!

Pine Barrens habitat on the shores of West Pond, Plymouth that CLWC is working with local residents to protect, 2023.

**To learn more about how you can help enforce the Wetlands Protection Act and Plymouth Wetlands Bylaw if you have concerns, our June 2021 Webinar is here and gives tips on citizen enforcement of the law.

Sand and gravel mining 

E.J. Pontiff Cranberry-P.A. Landers Excavating, Firehouse Road in Plymouth 

The mining operation is being done under the false pretense of building a “tailwater recovery pond” for cranberry bogs. On March 6, the Plymouth Zoning Board of Appeals denied a request by CLWC to enforce the earth removal law despite facts showing that the project is not a legitimate agricultural project, the volume of earth exceeds what was allowed in the sham permit, the area of excavation exceeds the permit, it violates the Clean Water Act and there is no record of compliance with the legal commitment to mitigate for the destruction of Priority Habitat of Rare and Endangered Species. Further, CLWC showed there is no evidence that this “tailwater recovery pond” will improve water quality of White Island Pond as claimed. 

Sand mining and gravel excavation by E.J. Pontiff, directly upgradient of White Island Pond

Mining operation: AD Makepeace, off Federal Road/Frogfoot Brook area, south Plymouth

A Ten Residents Group and STPB are challenging the wetlands impacts of this massive 200 acre industrial scale sand and gravel mining project that AD Makepeace claims is for yet another “cranberry farm.” Read about the wetlands case here. The wetlands case is scheduled for a hearing on December 14, 2023. In 2022, CLWC exposed AD Makepeace’s expired earth removal permit issued by the Zoning Board of Appeals under the false pretense that this is “agriculture.” Makepeace admits the sand and gravel is used to supply its Read Custom Soils distribution operation about ½ mile away in Carver. Who is kidding who? STPB also exposed the fact that Makepeace has failed to put 300 acres in conservation as mitigation for this destruction as required by the 2018 Plymouth earth removal permit.

Upcoming meetings and hearings 

On April 26 the Plymouth Planning Board continued the public hearing to a later date on Makepeace’s Red Brook development. The applicant wants to build another 100 residential units that will destroy rare Pine Barrens forest. Please attend the Planning Board meeting to voice your opinion once the hearing is rescheduled.


Sand and gravel mining

Local residents continue their fight against Morse Brothers Cranberry and the destruction of the Whaleback glacial esker. The “Whaleback” glacial esker on the Wampanoag canoe trail along the northwestern shore of Monponsett lake was just recently defaced, in addition to approximately 160,000 cubic yards of sand that Hanula and Morse brothers have stolen from the site. The Board of Selectmen has allowed sand mining excavations to penetrate the water table, even though this site is within the Town’s aquifer protection zoning overlay district, the Division II Wellhead Protection Area and the Class A Public Water Supply Lake of East and West Monponsett Pond. A 2008 archeological survey documented many hundreds of Indigenous artifacts within the immediate area. The sand mining is a criminal act, both an environmental crime and a cultural crime. Who knows what the long term effects on the lakes will be considering well over 1/2 billion lbs of earth have been removed from those bogs over the last 15-18 years.

Sand and gravel mining on the former Whaleback esker, a glacial deposit thousands of years old on the shores of Monponsett Pond that contained Indigenous cultural history.

Statewide News

Large Ground Mounted Solar Installations

Bill filed in the Legislature – help support this! This bill seeks to fix an almost 40-year old state zoning law that limits municipal zoning powers when it comes to large solar. In the 1980s, legislators did not intend to tie the hands of municipalities when it comes to proper siting and use of large solar projects but this is the effect today. This bill will update the law. It is not for or against solar.

An Act Regarding Municipal Zoning Powers:

“Section 3 of Chapter 40A of the General Laws is hereby amended by striking the following language: “No zoning ordinance or bylaw shall prohibit or unreasonably regulate the installation of solar energy systems or the building of structures that facilitate the collection of solar energy, except where necessary to protect the public health, safety or welfare.”Contact you state representative and senator (find your legislature here) and ask them to co-sponsor and support this bill. 

Massachusetts has lost close to 6,000 acres of woods to solar development.  Strengthening local zoning is one way to ensure appropriate solar siting and protection of our water, forests and community well being. 

Forest protection
 In her campaign for election, Governor Healey promised a moratorium on logging on state lands, until the State revises its forest management in a way that is consistent with goals on climate mitigation.  In the meantime, the state has put a hold on issuing private contracts for logging operations on state lands. Science and common sense says not cutting down trees in places like Myles Standish State Forest is the best thing to do. 

Upcoming Events

Thursday, May 25, 7:00 pm 
Attend at Plymouth Town Hall or on Zoom:

CLWC is excited to be on the panel Balancing Sustainably, Growth & Development in Plymouth, hosted by Sustainable Plymouth and the Plymouth Open Space Committee. Come to learn about the issues from a knowledgeable panel of experts, including CLWC’s own Katherine Harrelson! Please join us!

Past Events

Herring Fest, 2023:

CLWC had a great time teaming up with Indigenous Resources Collaborative (IRC) to present fun, family activities at this year’s Herring Run Fest. We want to thank all of the presenters at the event and the community members who took a moment to stop by. We look forward to seeing you next year!

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