Conservation Commission calls for options in wetlands mitigation plan
The Conservation Commission opened its monthly meeting on Aug. 8 with a visit to a proposed mitigation site at South Pond reservoir. The wetland mitigation plan comes in the wake of a design by town engineering consultants to build a new water treatment plant in an area that would result in a quarter acre loss of coastal marshland.
According to state Coastal Resources Management Council policy, an applicant seeking permits to fill, remove, or grade a tributary wetland is required to mitigate the area of marsh lost on a one-to-two area basis. Created to protect coastal wetlands, the policy states that when feasible mitigation shall take place on-site and/or in an area hydrologically connected to the impacted wetland. When not feasible, the coastal council will consider other viable alternatives.
Conservation Commissioner Jennifer Talancy questioned whether the mitigation plan would create any more ecological functions than what were currently present. Commissioner Carol Trocki echoed the sentiment, adding, "You can't create a forced wetland overnight."
Powell agreed. The area "already appears to be stable," he said.
The commission discussed the possibilities of finding a more suitable site for the wetlands restoration. Powell suggested considering areas with phragmites encroachment, such as the upper end of South Pond. Phragmites are tall, reed-like plants that grow in large colonies. He also suggested restoring the existing pond or creating a new pond at the Conanicut Island Sanctuary on the east side of Marsh Meadows.
"It would add to the habitat," he said. Powell noted that off the main trail to the north end of the sanctuary was a small bridge under which there used to be a pond. Now only a small stream runs under the bridge.
Upon return to the Ft. Wetherill Marine Laboratory for continuation of the meeting, the commissioners drafted a letter to the CRMC. The letter will request the council to consider "options that would be more functional and cost-effective" for the preservation of wildlife habitat on the island. The commissioners agreed that their primary interest in the project was wetland restoration.
They also looked at the site for the new water treatment plant. Comments made included considerations for a buffer needed between the new plant and the abutting farmland.
In a review of the final draft of the long-awaited Trails guide, board members wrapped up edit changes and additions to ready the guide for printing.
In a Harbor Management Commission liaison report, Commissioner Tom Johnson
noted that the harbor commission looked at the Ft. Getty Master Plan and a number of rights-ofway on the island where more dinghy racks could be used. "They've got to be more accessible to the shore, or else no one will use them," Powell said.
In a review of trails and properties management, Talancy noted that large amounts of phragmites were growing at the second overlook at the sanctuary. The commission talked about options to
bring in some fill, put wood chips down, and see how long they last. They could also build a boardwalk along the path. Powell suggested trying woodchips first.
Commissioner when feasible Trocki confirmed that the Conanicut Island Land Trust Hey Day is slated for Saturday, Sept. 16, with a rain date on Sept.17. The commission plans to have a booth and a photo exhibition of the famous Marsh Meadows ospreys.