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School Board takes action after Meadows site visit

September 30, 2009
After a site visit at the Meadows last Monday with representatives from the School Board, Conservation Commission and the Department of Environmental Services, the board met again Thursday to decide that they will go forward with the required flood study monitor existing wells on Meadows property.

These tests will be done throughout next growing season from April 15 to Oct. 24, and Meadows Advisory Committee representative Paul Fluet will continue to work on the flood study. The board also plans to hire a landscaper and will request that Nancy Rendall from Blue Moon Environmental Inc. and Barry Keith walk through the wetlands, since they only viewed the adder-hole during the site visit.

The board also agreed to write a letter to DES to finalize an agreement on what needs to be accomplished for the Meadows project to reach completion. They have requested that Rendall and Keith write a letter to the Conservation Commission after their site visit to confirm what issues are being addressed and to receive signatures as proof of consent to move forward in the project.

Sue Allen from the Meadows Advisory Committee said that the MAC has followed everything that DES has asked of them so far, and that they are simply going through the process to obtain their goal and have agreed to add hydrology tests to their agenda in order to fulfill the wetlands application.

The town attorney is now working on the alteration of terrain permit on behalf of the Conservation Commission and the board is still waiting for the results. DES is now looking at the wetlands permit, said Assistant Superintendent Scott Isabelle. However, he added, the board cannot go forward until given the go ahead. The board also plans to wait for DES to walk the property with them before making any further decisions.

DES is concerned with the groundwater hydrology study and intends to have the MAC measure the ground water levels at the beginning of growing season, said Isabelle. DES is also concerned with the disturbed wetland soils, disturbed wetland vegetation and hydration levels, which the board plans to have.

Ideally, the board said they would like to prove that they are not dealing with official wetlands, but they must address the issues at hand first.

The testings will show ground water elevations during spring growing season, although DES is only looking for water levels in the beginning of the season. Fluet had some concerns with this method, and questioned how consistent the tests could really be, considering precipitation levels very throughout the year. They plan to develop a protocol for water level measurements along with the DES to avoid more misconstrued information.

"We have to think the results are dependant on the rain (and how many tests are done). How will they know what the average is?" asked Fluet. "Particular years depend on the outcome of data. It seems a little subjective to me."

The board agreed that they would attempt to remain as consistent as possible in their testings, and would attempt to acquire data on a weekly basis to ensure they have the most accurate water level results, incase of weeks with much more rain than others.

The board plans to authorize the hydrology studies, and has added an estimated $5,000 to their plan for additional well testings.

They also plan to provide a flood-storage study with a term-management plan. Rendall said the placement of the wells under the field are fine, yet the board said they want to be as consistent, and careful as possible at this point.

DES and the Conservation Commission still have a few concerns, said Isabelle, although the main disagreement started over "approved" wetlands and wetland maps from the town. The board pointed out they had used the prime wetland maps the Conservation Commission had instructed them to use, but were then told that conditions change over time and as a result, change the wetlands, which have become one of the biggest concerns among the commission.

As of right now, the boundary line at the Meadows is about 400-feet away from the prime wetlands, and they are only required to alter terrain 100-feet away from wetlands, said Fluet.

"In many cases, we are already 400-feet back. According to the map, we are 450-feet away (from the field), " said Fluet, who added that they were 120 feet away from Triple Trouble Farm.

Fluet agreed though, that the wetlands will eventually move closer to the boundary lines, since the prime wetlands must have changed since 1983, and the soil is considered to be poorly drained, and could affect the prime wetlands.

The Conservation Commission remains concerned over potential floods, fertilizers used on the field, and wetland delineations.

The board plans to have a flood-storage study done and to move soil to another location as an attempt to prove that these processes produce no more than a neutral impact. Isabelle said fertilizer is only used twice a year on the fields, and that pesticides are never used.

Martin Lord & Osman
Varney Smith
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