The Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act. This public environmental review process allows all agencies and the public to comment on a designated project and to require mitigation for project impacts, if deemed necessary.
As part of this review process, the water district's project team submitted an Environmental Notification Form (ENF) describing the proposed project and anticipated impacts. Because the ENF found that the project was within the habitat area of four species of special concern and one threatened species (Blanding's turtle), the team had to complete an Environmental Impact Report to help the state examine the impacts in greater depth.
The “taking” of land inhabited by endangered species is similar to eminent domain, whereby land cannot be taken without compensation or, in this case, mitigating potential harm.
To avoid the project-halting label of a “taking” of endangered species land, the district proposed a number of methods:Move the water-main alignment to minimize impactDevelop an amphibian and reptile diversion and monitoring programEstablish a plan for managing withdrawal.Monitor wetlands and vernal pools
Timeline: 14 months, contingent upon an amphibian and reptile diversion and monitoring program.
Water Management Act. Operated by the Massachusetts DEP, this permit process monitors withdrawal locations and volumes of public water supplies to ensure a safe and adequate water supply for all users—and to maintain adequate flow in the state's waterways. The district sought to amend its Water Management Act permit to add an additional withdrawal location to approved withdrawal points. The new well is adjacent to the Squanacook River, the same river valley where the district's well field is located.
Although the district didn't request increases in withdrawal volumes, simply opening the door for permit review in this tight regulatory climate made such scrutiny likely. The Massachusetts Riverways Program, for instance, raised some concerns over stream impacts, resulting in increased restrictions on the withdrawal of water.
Resulting permit restrictions included meeting a 65-gallon/capita/day limit on residential usage, mandatory water conservation restrictions on activities like watering lawns or washing cars, and summer withdrawal limits. The district was also confined to reaching a maximum of 10% “unaccounted-for” water, which in Massachusetts is calculated based on the amount of water pumped out of the ground, minus the amount of water sold to customers, and reasonably estimated for other activities such as fighting fires or flushing hydrants. The review also imposed such requirements as groundwater and wetland plot monitoring to ensure no adverse impact resulted from pumping the new well. The water district is now meeting these requirements.
Timeline: 21 months.
Wetlands. As prescribed by state law, the district submitted the project for approval to the Town Conservation Commission—since project activity would occur within wetland buffer zones and disturb wetlands.