Conservation & Sustainability
Preservation of Holyoke's open spaces, preserving water resources, reforesting our City and working to enhance our position as a leader in sustainability-these are among our highest obligations to our City.
The City of Holyoke Conservation Commission is responsible for protecting Holyoke’s natural resources. The Conservation Commission administers and enforces the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act, the Massachusetts Rivers Protection Act and the City of Holyoke Wetlands Protection Ordinance and associated Regulations. These laws protect ponds, rivers, streams, wetlands, floodplains, vernal pools, and other sensitive environmental resources.
Projects near these resources require review and approval by the Commission. The Commission is also responsible for other special projects including management of 2012 Open Space and Recreation Plan, the water chestnut control project at Log Pond Cove, and open space protection. In addition to a wealth of industrial history, the City of Holyoke boasts a rich diversity of natural resources.
The land area of the City of Holyoke is approximately 12,000 acres. Of that, 6,200 acres are classified as open space, 7000 acres are forest, and 605 acres are bordering vegetated wetlands. The City has twelve miles of riverfront along the Connecticut River- An American Heritage River.
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Funding provided through the Massachusetts Gateway Cities Program allowed the City to establish a municipal nursery in the Spring of 2016.
A portion of the trees planted last spring are available, for free, for residential properties located in Holyoke. You must be a Holyoke resident to be eligible. This is non-negotihtble.
Please contact the Holyoke Conservation Commission at show contact info to inquire about tree species and varieties that are available.
Generally, we are trying to increase biodiversity and provide shade throughout the City. To that end, smaller fruit trees are not available at this time.
Again, please call 413/322-5615 if you would like to learn more about tree species that are available to you, if you are a resident of Holyoke.
Request Trees for Your Downtown Property!
The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) has allocated funding for private property tree plantings within downtown Holyoke during the 2014 and 2015 planting seasons. DCR will supply high quality nursery stock trees to property owners and will coordinate the procurement and planting process for all eligible property owners. To request a tree, or trees, for your property at no cost to you please call DCR’s Holyoke hotline directly by dialing 617-626-1473. Make sure you include your name, address and phone number to allow the DCR’s forester and arborist to schedule a follow-up site visit to assess suitability for planting and species options.
If you are interested in having street trees planted near your property, at no initial cost to you, please fill out the City’s tree form below. Once you have filled out the form, please forward it to the Conservation Commission office. It should be noted that your property must be in DCR’s target planting area in order to be eligible for tree plantings for the 2014/2015 planting season. Requests in the target area will be fulfilled first; requests outside of the target area may be fulfilled in Fall of 2015.
Who are the Conservation Commissioners?
The Conservation Commission consists of seven unpaid volunteers– all residents of Holyoke– appointed by the Mayor. The current Commission provides the City of Holyoke with close to 100 years of wetlands permitting experience!
Each Commissioner brings unique talents and interests to the board. Some bring decades of permitting experience; some bring a love of public service; all bring a commitment to the protection of natural resources in Holyoke. The day-to-day affairs of the Commission are managed by a full-time paid director.
1. Jeff Horan, Chairperson - term expires Feb. 1, 2019
2. Anja Ryan Duffy, Vice-Chairperson - Feb 1, 2019
2. Bernice Bowler- term expires Feb. 1, 2020
4. Rosemary Arnold - term expires Feb. 1, 2019
5. Mary Moriarty - term expires Feb. 1, 2021
6. Michael Dodge - term expires Feb. 1, 2020
7. Ellen Bernstein - term expires Feb. 1, 2021
When does the Commission meet?
The Commission meets on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month except in November and December. Meetings are held at 6:15 p.m. Meeting agendas are posted at least forty-eight hours in advance with the City Clerk and outside the Conservation Commission office.
Generally meetings are held in the fourth floor conference room of City Hall Annex. The door closest to the District Court is available for entry during meeting hours. During the warmer months, the Commission meets at the Sue Ellen Panitch River Access Center, 8 Oscar Street.
All members of the public are invited to attend. Meetings are governed by the Commissions’ Bylaws .
The City of Holyoke is a leader in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on matters of energy conservation and renewable energy generation.
Holyoke was built on renewable energy and has embraced its roots through doing all that it can to create a sustainable community of the future. The city’s quest to become a Green Community stemmed from understanding the need to continue to make improvements, upgrades, and efficiencies in order to work toward a completely sustainable community with reduced energy consumption and carbon-free energy generation.
As one of the first planned industrial cities in America, Holyoke was built on water power with a hydroelectric facility placed at the location of a 57-foot drop in the Connecticut River, with 4.5 miles and three levels of canals to fully maximize the power of the river. This resource provided Holyoke with the power to become the “Paper City” and at one time among the wealthiest cities in the world. Holyoke is now embracing the challenge to return to its roots to promote the city’s “green” sustainable features. Holyoke’s municipal utility that has worked hard to achieve 80 percent of its retail electricity generation through carbon-free sources and continues to work on adding renewable sources and reducing consumption.
Holyoke has been a Green Community since 2010 and has received the following funds from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources:
- $321,221 for conversion of exterior parking lot lighting to LEDs at all twelve schools, for high-efficiency LED traffic and street lights, and to purchase BigBelly Solar Compactors for public parks and high traffic areas.
- $166,716 to fund Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning system upgrades in the Exhibit Hall in the Children’s Museum including replacing the boilers with high efficiency gas boilers, replacing the rooftop air conditioning units, installing direct digital controls and demand control ventilation.
- $230,000 to fund energy conservation measures in City Hall and City Hall Annex.
This plans are guided by the City’s Energy Reduction Plan, which can be downloaded here:
How do I learn more about wetlands?
- Wetlands and Residence Landscapers
- Snow handling guidance
- Wetlands Science from the Environmental Protection Agency
What’s going on around the Reservoirs?
Due to the popularity of Holyoke’s watershed properties – according to the OSRP, people love them! – we frequently get calls and questions about the watershed properties and, oftentimes, people want to know about day-to-day management activities. The Holyoke Water Department has an existing Watershed Management Plan that specifically spells out what does, and does not, need a filing with the Conservation Commission. This is an interesting and educational document, and it is worth reading, as it will answer most questions about land management.
Do I have wetlands on or near my property?
Send your name, address, telephone number and the address or map-block-parcel of the site that you are inquiring about to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Conservation Director will do preliminary research and contact you. A site visit and determinations from the Conservation Commission are necessary to receive a legally binding response. Please contact the Conservation Director at 413-322-5615 for assistance with the permitting process.
Does my project or activity require a permit?
If your project or activity is within 100’ of a wetlands, pond, lake or other resource area or within 200’ of a perennial stream, a permit is required. Please note: the Holyoke Conservation Commission protects isolated wetlands and vernal pools under its local regulations. A few minor projects and certain maintenance projects may be exempt from permitting. Contact us for additional guidance prior to performing any work.
Where can I obtain Wetlands Protection Act Application Forms? What are the filing requirements?
Typically, projects require a WPA Form 1- Request for Determination of Applicability or a WPA Form 3- Notice of Intent. All Wetlands Protection Act forms can be retrieved from http://www.mass.gov/dep/water/approvals/wwforms.htm
What is the Riverfront Resource Area in the City of Holyoke?
All perennial streams and the Connecticut River in the City of Holyoke are protected by the 200′ Riverfront Resource Area pursuant to 310 CMR 10.58. Perennial streams are defined according to 310 CMR 10.58 and can include Tannery Brook, Broad Brook, Green Brook, Paucatuck Brook, Bray Brook, Serendipity Brook, Barry Brook, and/or Whiting Brook. There are no areas designated as densely developed in Holyoke. therefore all sections perennial streams that meet the definition established in 310 CMR 10.58 are subject to the Wetlands Protection Act. The CT River riverfront from the Holyoke Dam south to Berkshire Street has been designated as an Historic Mill District.
What are the “DEP File Number” Signs that I see around Holyoke?
You may see signs at construction sites which have DEP File No. 186-xxx on them. These signs indicate that the project has been approved by the Conservation Commission and DEP and an Order of Conditions has been issued. 186 indicates that the project is in Holyoke and the last 3 digits indicate the file number. For a listing of recent applications, click here.
Water Chestnut Control Project- Have you seen this plant?
The City of Holyoke Conservation Commission has been instrumental in coordinating control and removal of the 16-acre water chestnut infestation at Log Pond Cove on the Connecticut River since 1998. The project is an example of the value of partnerships in achieving environmental goals. In 2004, the project was presented at the 13th International Conference on Aquatic Invasive Speciesin Ireland.
The 2008 control season was funded by grants from United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. The 2011 season was funded by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. .
What unique resources must be considered when planning development in Holyoke?
Several tracts of land in Holyoke have been designated by the Commonwealth of MA as Habitat of Potential Regional or Statewide Importance and Land of High Ecological Integrity. For maps of these areas and additional information on permitting requirements in these areas, please see the Mass CAPS website and DEP. (New as of June 2008)
The MA Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program is responsible for protection and conservation of rare and endangered plants and animals in the Commonwealth of MA. Nearly 47% of Holyoke is designated as Priority Habitat for Rare Species or Estimated Habitat of Rare Wetlands Wildlife and is therefore subject to additional permitting by NHESP. For additional information, use this link Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program
How can I learn more about beavers (Nature’s Engineers)?
Most Holyoke human-beaver conflicts have been successfully resolved by the installation of water flow devices- also known as “Beaver Deceivers”. Read more about water flow devices.
MassWildlife offers additional resources including information on how Massachusetts law prohibits the dismantling or distubance of beaver dams and beaver lodges. Note that wildlife in Massachusetts may not be trapped and relocated.
2012 OPEN SPACE AND RECREATION PLAN
The Holyoke Conservation Commission is responsible for updating the City’s Open Space and Recreation Plan. This plan was developed after an intense round of public participation in the fall of 2011 – 2012. The Mayor and City Council endorsed this document on February 6, 2013. The goals and objectives contained within this document will guide the next five years of conservation and recreation activities in the City.
This document can be viewed here: Compressed OSRP 2013-2018
Updated Flood Insurance Rate Maps
Communities throughout Hampden County, including Holyoke, are receiving updated flood hazard maps as part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) nationwide program to modernize Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs). The new maps are scheduled to become effective on July 15, 2013. The Holyoke City Council will have a public hearing to give residents a chance to learn more about these changes at 7:00 pm in City Council Chambers on March 12, 2013. Please fell free to review the proposed changes below to become familiar with the new floodplain boundaries in the City. Please feel free to contact either the Planning Department or the Conservation Department with any questions.
City of Holyoke Open Space and Recreation Plan
Final 2012 Plan
The Holyoke City Council and Mayor Alex B. Morse endorsed the City’s Open Space and Recreation Plan on February 6, 2013. This plan was developed after an intense round of public participation in the fall of 2011 – 2012.
This document can be viewed here: Compressed OSRP 2013-2018
Management Plan for Holyoke Range Administrative Unit
At a public meeting held at the Notch Visitors Center the evening of February 21, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation announced a public comment period on a draft Resource Management Plan (RMP) for the Mount Holyoke Range Planning Unit, including Mount Holyoke Range State Park, Joseph Allen Skinner State Park, Mount Tom State Reservation, and Holyoke Heritage State Park. The public comment period extends through March 24.
The meeting presentation and draft Resource Management Plan are posted on DCR’s website at http://www.mass.gov/dcr/news/publicmeetings/rmppast.htm.
Review copies of the Draft RMP are also available for viewing at town public libraries in Amherst, Belchertown, Easthampton, Granby, Hadley, Holyoke, and South Hadley. Public comments should be sent by email to DCR.Updates@state.ma.us or by U. S. mail to the Office of Public Outreach, Department of Conservation and Recreation, 251 Causeway Street, Suite 600, Boston, MA 02114. It should be noted that public comments received via email or letter will be posted in their entirety to the DCR website, and no content, including personal information, will be redacted.
Resource management planning forms the framework for managing public lands based upon a comprehensive inventory and assessment of environmental and recreational resources; an identification of the unique characteristics of a property or management unit; the development of clear management goals and objectives; and an implementation plan to guide the short- and long-term management of the parks, forests, and reservations under the stewardship of DCR.
Bike Needs Assessment
Working with MassBike, the Mass-in-Motion Program, community leaders and the Holyoke YMCA, City officials and residents developed a strategic plan for improving biking conditions in Holyoke in 2013. A copy of the Bike Plan is available here.
Urban Forestry Plan for Holyoke
In the Spring and Fall of 2014, the Holyoke Conservation Commission will facilitate the development of an Urban Forestry Plan for Downtown Holyoke. The aim of this plan will be to chart a long-term and near-term course for reforesting the City’s core urban neighborhoods. The Conservation Director will lead a team consisting of Westfield State University, the Holyoke Office of Planning and Economic Development, the Holyoke Department of Public Works and the Food and Fitness Partnership to accomplish this task. Citizen participation is more than welcome as we develop this plan. Please contact Andrew Smith at 413-322-5615 to sign-up and become a part of the greening of Downtown Holyoke.
As part of the ongoing planning process, the Conservation Commission has developed a preliminary map that identifies empty tree pits in downtown Holyoke. This map is visible here:Empty Tree Pits
Preliminary Mapping Documents
Draft Priority Planting Plan for Holyoke’s Study Area
The Draft Urban Forestry Plan has been completed as of May 2, 2014. The Public is invited to review and comment on the details of this plan. A digital copy is posted below and a hard copy will be available for the public to review in the Conservation Commission’s offices.
Please feel free to submit comments to me at email@example.com before May 14, 2014; or in writing at the Commission’s mailing address: 20 Korean Vets’ Plaza, Room 412, Holyoke ,MA.
In the Spring of 2014, a team of Graduate Students from the Conway School of Landscape Design developed a policy and planning document that can be used to integrate green stormwater management techniques into Holyoke’s existing built environment. Taken together, this is an exciting planning document that policy makers, professionals and citizens can use to manage stormwater economically, enhance the beauty of the built environment, and prevent localized flooding.
A copy of this final document is available here: Green Streets Toolkit
The City of Holyoke has adopted MA DEP’s snow handling policy document as the operating policy for managing and disposing of snow within the City. You can access that policy here to develop a plan for managing snow on your property: Snow Policy for Holyoke
The U.S Army Corps of Engineers authorizes state and local governments to issue permits for work within the waters of the United States in lieu direct Corp’s issuance of a permit, provided the terms of the PGP are met. Permits are valid for five years.
The Conte Refuge works to conserve the biodiversity of the CT River watershed. USF&W is a project partner with the City of Holyoke on the protection of Mt. Tom and the Log Pond Cove water chestnut removal project.
MACC offers training and materials for Commissions and the general public.
MA DEP is the environmental agency for the Commonwealth of MA.
IPANE provides a search-able database of invasive species in New England and quality links to invasive species topics.
United States Environmental Protection Agency- American Heritage River Program For additional information on the status of the Connecticut River as an American Heritage River.
A Review Holyoke’s Stormwater Regulations and their relationship with the City’s Ordinance.
Information from the UMass Extension Service about the ecology of stream fragmentation.
Article 97 is a powerful and important land management tool in the Commonwealth. For a location of Article 97 properties in Holyoke, please refer to the below map:
It is the policy of the Commonwealth to protect, preserve and enhance all open space areas covered by Article 97 of the Article of Amendment to the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Accordingly, as a general rule communities shall not sell, transfer, lease, relinquish, release, alienate, or change the control or use of any right or interest of the Commonwealth in and to Article 97 land. The goal of this policy is to ensure no net loss of Article 97 lands under the ownership and control of the Commonwealth and its political subdivisions.
An Article 97 land disposition is defined as a) any transfer or conveyance of ownership or other interests; b) any change in physical or legal control; and c) any change in use, in and to Article 97 land or interests in Article 97 land owned or held by the Commonwealth or its political subdivisions, whether by deed, easement, lease or any other instrument effectuating such transfer, conveyance or change.
In order for an Article 97 Land Disposition to occur, the following must happen:
- A proponent must obtain a unanimous vote of the municipal Conservation Commission that the Article 97 land is surplus to municipal, conservation and open space needs;
- A proponent must obtain a unanimous vote of the municipal Park Commission if the land proposed for disposition is parkland;
- A proponent must obtain a two-thirds City Council vote in support of the disposition;
- A proponent must obtain two-thirds vote of the legislature in support of the disposition, as required under the state constitution;
- A proponent must comply with all requirements of the Self-Help, Urban Self-Help, Land and Water Conservation Fund, and any other applicable funding sources; and
- A proponent must comply with EOEA Article 97 Land Disposition Policy
- The Governor of the Commonwealth must sign off on the final Article 97 Disposition
Effective Date: March 8, 2001
Applicability: Applies to all federal, state, regional and local agencies, as well as to private businesses.
PURPOSE: To provide guidelines to all government agencies and private businesses regarding snow disposal site selection, site preparation and maintenance, and emergency snow disposal options that are acceptable to the Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Resource Protection.
Finding a place to dispose of collected snow poses a challenge to municipalities and businesses as they clear roads, parking lots, bridges, and sidewalks. While we are all aware of the threats to public safety caused by snow, collected snow that is contaminated with road salt, sand, litter, and automotive pollutants such as oil also threatens public health and the environment.
As snow melts, road salt, sand, litter, and other pollutants are transported into surface water or through the soil where they may eventually reach the groundwater. Road salt and other pollutants can contaminate water supplies and are toxic to aquatic life at certain levels. Sand washed into waterbodies can create sand bars or fill in wetlands and ponds, impacting aquatic life, causing flooding, and affecting our use of these resources.
There are several steps that communities can take to minimize the impacts of snow disposal on public health and the environment. These steps will help communities avoid the costs of a contaminated water supply, degraded waterbodies, and flooding. Everything we do on the land has the potential to impact our water resources. Given the authority of local government over the use of the land, municipal officials and staff have a critically important role to play in protecting our water resources.
The purpose of these guidelines is to help municipalities and businesses select, prepare, and maintain appropriate snow disposal sites before the snow begins to accumulate through the winter.
These snow disposal guidelines address: (1) site selection; (2) site preparation and maintenance; and (3) emergency snow disposal.
1. SITE SELECTION
The key to selecting effective snow disposal sites is to locate them adjacent to or on pervious surfaces in upland areas away from water resources and wells. At these locations, the snow meltwater can filter in to the soil, leaving behind sand and debris which can be removed in the springtime. The following areas should be avoided:
- Do not dump snow into any waterbody, including rivers, the ocean, reservoirs, ponds, or wetlands. In addition to water quality impacts and flooding, snow disposed of in open water can cause navigational hazards when it freezes into ice blocks.
- Do not dump snow within a Zone II or Interim Wellhead Protection Area (IWPA) of a public water supply well or within 75 feet of a private well, where road salt may contaminate water supplies.
- Avoid dumping snow on MassDEP-designated high and medium-yield aquifers where it may contaminate groundwater (see the next page for information on ordering maps from MassGIS showing the locations of aquifers, Zone II’s, and IWPAs in your community).
- Avoid dumping snow in sanitary landfills and gravel pits. Snow meltwater will create more contaminated leachate in landfills posing a greater risk to groundwater, and in gravel pits, there is little opportunity for pollutants to be filtered out of the meltwater because groundwater is close to the land surface.
- Do not dispose of snow on top of storm drain catch basins or in stormwater drainage swales or ditches. Snow combined with sand and debris may block a storm drainage system, causing localized flooding. A high volume of sand, sediment, and litter released from melting snow also may be quickly transported through the system into surface water.
Site Selection Procedures
- It is important that the municipal Department of Public Works or Highway Department, Conservation Commission, and Board of Health work together to select appropriate snow disposal sites. The following steps should be taken:
- Estimate how much snow disposal capacity is needed for the season so that an adequate number of disposal sites can be selected and prepared.
- Identify sites that could potentially be used for snow disposal such as municipal open space (e.g., parking lots or parks).
- Sites located in upland locations that are not likely to impact sensitive environmental resources should be selected first.
- If more storage space is still needed, prioritize the sites with the least environmental impact (using the site selection criteria, and local or MassGIS maps as a guide).
You can order a map from the Holyoke Conservation Commission to facilitate site selection for $10.00. Please contact the Conservation Commission at 413-322-5615 for information.
2. SITE PREPARATION AND MAINTENANCE
In addition to carefully selecting disposal sites before the winter begins, it is important to prepare and maintain these sites to maximize their effectiveness. The following maintenance measures should be undertaken for all snow disposal sites:
- A silt fence or equivalent barrier should be placed securely on the downgradient side of the snow disposal site.
- To filter pollutants out of the meltwater, a 50-foot vegetative buffer strip should be maintained during the growth season between the disposal site and adjacent waterbodies.
- Debris should be cleared from the site prior to using the site for snow disposal.
- Debris should be cleared from the site and properly disposed of at the end of the snow season and no later than May 15.
3. EMERGENCY SNOW DISPOSAL
As mentioned earlier, it is important to estimate the amount of snow disposal capacity you will need so that an adequate number of upland disposal sites can be selected and prepared.
If despite your planning, upland disposal sites have been exhausted, snow may be disposed of near waterbodies. A vegetated buffer of at least 50 feet should still be maintained between the site and the waterbody in these situations. Furthermore, it is essential that the other guidelines for preparing and maintaining snow disposal sites be followed to minimize the threat to adjacent waterbodies.
Under extraordinary conditions, when all land-based snow disposal options are exhausted, disposal of snow that is not obviously contaminated with road salt, sand, and other pollutants may be allowed in certain waterbodies under certain conditions. In these dire situations, notify your Conservation Commission and the appropriate MassDEP Regional Service Center before disposing of snow in a waterbody.
Use the following guidelines in these emergency situations:
- Dispose of snow in open water with adequate flow and mixing to prevent ice dams from forming.
- Do not dispose of snow in saltmarshes, vegetated wetlands, certified vernal pools, shellfish beds, mudflats, drinking water reservoirs and their tributaries, Zone IIs or IWPAs of public water supply wells, Outstanding Resource Waters, or Areas of Critical Environmental Concern.
- Do not dispose of snow where trucks may cause shoreline damage or erosion.
- Consult with the municipal Conservation Commission to ensure that snow disposal in open water complies with local ordinances and bylaws.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
If you need more information, contact one of MassDEP’s Regional Service Centers:
Western Regional Office, Springfield, 413-755-2214
In order to work within 100 Feet of a Wetland, the Conservation Commission must first determine whether or not the work will alter, fill or dredge a jurisdictional resource area. Work without a permit is subject to enforcement actions including but not limited to financial, civil or criminal penalties. The only way to determine whether or not a wetland is present on a parcel is to hire a wetlands delineator to map out the boundaries of a wetland resource area. The Conservation Commission, the Property Owner and the Owner’s wetlands delineator then review the wetlands boundaries to determine whether or not they are accurate and to determine whether or not the proposed scope of work will remove, fill, dredge or alter a resource area.
- A Request for Determination of Applicability is used to determine the above question – RDA Application Form and Instructions
- If the Commission determines that a proposed activity will remove, fill, dredge or alter a resource area, a Notice of Intent is filed – NOI Application and Instructions
- Affidavit of Service to Abutters (M.G.L. 131, Section 40) must be submitted by the Applicant when filing a Notice of Intent. This for is available here – Holyoke Affidavit of Service
Please note, these forms require a significant amount of technical expertise and experience. Please do not attempt to fill these documents out without the support of an experienced professional.
Rights-of-Way Spraying Activities on Public Roads are regulated by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources. Holyoke’s Conservation Commission is charged with reviewing the location of sensitive resource areas – like wetlands and vernal pools – to make sure spraying is at least 10 feet away from these sensitive areas. Every year, each agency responsible for maintaining their public ways will submit a draft management plan – a Yearly Operational Plan – to MDAR for their review. A public comment period is a requirement for each of these YOPs.
The following agencies/entities of YOPs under review
- Holyoke Gas and Electric (comment period closes 3/27/15)
- The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (comment period closes 6/6/14)
The Massachusetts Legislature amended G.L. c.131, s.80A, with the passage of “An Act Relative to Foothold Traps and Certain Other Devices.” This new law became effective on July 21, 2000, and makes it easier for applicants to alleviate threats caused by beaver and muskrat-related flooding.
Any person may apply to the Board of Health for an emergency permit to immediately alleviate a threat to human health and safety from beaver or muskrat-related activity. The law includes a list of activities, summarized here, that may constitute a threat to human health and safety. (See enclosed copy of the new law for a complete list).
• Beaver or muskrat occupancy of a public water supply (the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) must make this determination);
• Beaver or muskrat-caused flooding of drinking water wells, well fields, pumping stations, sewage beds, septic systems, sewage pumping stations, public or private ways, driveways, railways, airport runways or taxi-ways, electrical, gas, communication, or other public utility structures or facilities;
• Beaver or muskrat-caused flooding affecting the public use of hospitals, emergency clinics, nursing homes, homes for the elderly, fire stations, hazardous waste, incineration, or resource recovery facilities, or other facilities where flooding may result in the release of hazardous or noxious materials;
• Damage (gnawing, chewing, entering or other damage) to electric or gas facilities, transmission or distribution equipment, cable, alarm systems, or facilities, caused by beavers or muskrat;
• Beaver or muskrat-caused flooding or structural instability on the applicant’s property, if it poses an imminent threat of substantial property damage or income loss of the following types: flooding of residential, commercial, or industrial facilities; flooding of or access to commercial agricultural lands which prevents normal agricultural practices from being conducted; reduction in the production of an agricultural crop caused by flooding or compromised structural stability of commercial agricultural lands; and flooding of residential lands in which the Board of Health, its chair or agent or the state or federal department of health has determined a threat to health and safety exists.
If the Board of Health determines that such a threat exists, the Board of Health shall immediately issue an emergency permit to alleviate the threat. The permit is valid for ten days. In some cases, the applicant may apply to the Board of Health for two additional ten-day permits. (See the new law for details). If denied, the applicant may appeal to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) for a determination as to the existence of the threat. The Massachusetts DPH will be sending out written guidance to the municipal Boards of Health to help them implement the law.
The Board of Health permit authorizes the applicant to remedy the threat in one of three ways: 1) use of conibear or box or cage-type traps (subject to Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DF&W) but not Conservation Commission regulation); 2) breaching of dams, dikes, bogs or berms, subject to determinations and conditions of Conservation Commissions; or 3) use of any nonlethal management or water-flow devices, subject to determinations and conditions of Conservation Commissions.
The applicant “in conjunction with the Board of Health” may apply to the DF&W for a 30-day extension permit. If the extension is granted, the DF&W shall develop, with the assistance of the applicant, the Board of Health, and the Conservation Commission, a plan to abate the beaver or muskrat problem using alternative, nonlethal management techniques in combination with water-flow devices, subject to Conservation Commission determinations and conditions. The plan may include box and cage type-traps, if necessary, subject to all applicable permitting requirements, including, but not limited to, any permits required by the DF&W.
Beaver and muskrat-related problems that are determined by the Board of Health to not constitute threats to public health and safety under this new law may still be addressed with assistance and approval from DF&W pursuant to regulations at 321 CMR 2.08. Any permits issued by DF&W that allow an alteration to a wetland resource area, for either long term management purposes or beaver related problems that do not constitute a threat to public health, are still subject to the determinations and conditions of the Conservation Commissions.
G.L c. 131, s. 80A and the Wetlands Protection Act.
The Legislature recognized that Conservation Commissions have always had an important role to play in solving beaver and muskrat problems, and it specifically emphasized that breaching and other water management proposals are subject to “determinations and conditions” of Conservation Commissions pursuant to the Wetlands Protection Act (G.L. c.131, s.40). Still, the Legislature placed responsibility for declaring a beaver or muskrat-related “threat to human health and safety” squarely with Boards of Health rather than with Commissions. Commissions, therefore, should not second-guess Boards of Health as to the existence of these threats. Commissions can, however, ask as many questions as necessary to ascertain the exact nature, scope, and magnitude of the threat, as well as the details of the proposed remedy, in order to impose conditions that will protect the interests of the Wetlands Protection Act. Commissions should work towards solutions that will alleviate immediate threats while protecting wetlands interests to the greatest extent possible. Close cooperation with applicants and Boards of Health will be essential in achieving this goal.
Resource areas likely to be altered by a dam breaching or water management proposal include banks, freshwater wetlands, land under water bodies, land subject to flooding, and riverfront areas. The interests served by these resource areas include: protection of public and private water supplies; protection of groundwater supplies; flood control; storm damage prevention; prevention of pollution; protection of fisheries; protection of wildlife habitat; and less likely, protection of land containing shellfish.
20 Korean Veterans’ Plaza
City Hall Annex
Holyoke, MA 01040 Map
Conservation & Sustainability Department
8:30 - 4:30 pm
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Posted on October 4, 2012 by EileenP