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I Need Your Help With A Wetlands Issue

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by jfenton, May 10, 2007.

  1. jfenton


    Jan 26, 2005
    Haverhill, MA
    Some of you may remember the fight I took to the City of Haverhill Massachusetts where I live last fall, as they drained a wetlands down to darn near nothing during routine maintenance of the culvert.

    Yesterday, my 50th birthday present was observing on the way home that they are doing it again.

    It is just started and I'm trying like heck to stop it before it's too late.

    If you've got a moment to look at the pictures as I chronicle this destruction and leave a comment it would be greatly appreciated.

    The images can be found at:


    If you're really in a motivated mood and would like to drop an email to the mayor, city council and conservation department in Haverhill, that would be great and I'd be more than happy to provide you with their email addresses.

    Best way to reach me for this information is via email: jfenton@jfentonphoto.com

    For some light reading, this is the letter which i composed and sent to the mayor, conservation department, city council, MA Department of Environmental Protection, MA Division of Fisaheries and Wildlife and others last eveing.

    It''s a bit of a long one....

    Office of the Mayor May, 9, 2007 City of Haverhill, Massachusetts
    City Hall, Room 100, 4 Summer Street, Haverhill, MA 01830

    Dear Mayor Fiorentini:

    It is with great sadness that I must again address the issue of the Upper and Lower marsh sections of the Creek Brook drainage system between Computer and Technology drive adjacent to Route 97 and the new Haverhill Commons development which will house both a Lowes and Target stores.

    This area is in my opinion, the one of the most important wetlands in the City of Haverhill as it affords not only perfect habitat for wildlife, but also an unparalleled viewing area of this wildlife for the residents of the City of Haverhill.

    On any given day, especially in the evenings and weekends, folks from the local area, Haverhill proper and even birders from New Hampshire and other communities in Massachusetts, frequent this area to view the wildlife, walk their dogs, etc. Last weekend there were no less than a dozen separate groups of people, which visited throughout the evening time period. All of these folks were thrilled that the water levels were back up and that wildlife had once again begun migrating back into the area.

    This area has seen wood and mallard ducks, Canadian geese, hooded and common mergansers, horned grebes, great blue herons, green herons; tree, northern rough leg and barn swallows; Merlin’s; kestrels; red tail, sharp shinned and coopers hawks; various warblers; red wing blackbirds, grackles, starlings and cowbirds this spring, along with a large number of migrating shorebirds recently. I can’t stress enough that nowhere else in Haverhill can the residents observe this wildlife at such close range.

    It should be noted that this an important migration stop in both spring and fall for many of the species listed above.

    Last fall in September, I complained numerous times to the Conservation Department and the Mayors office that Culvert #2 in the lower marsh had been excavated and that the earthen horseshoe shaped dam in front of the culvert had also been breached. This resulted in the marsh being drained and the wholesale slaughter of thousands of fish and also of numbers of reptiles, which had migrated to this area to spend the winter. As you may or may not recall, this made the front page of the Eagle Tribune. I’d remind you that my complaints brought offers from you Mr. Mayor, to allow me to assist in determining tree planting on my street (I declined as you were obviously unaware that there is no place to plant trees on my street) and to appoint me to a committee on open spaces; an offer which I declined but would have gladly accepted once some resolution was undertaken to protect this vital wetlands.

    Mr. Robert E. Moore Jr., Environmental Health Technician, in a letter to the Mayor dated November 10, 2007, noted that while the Department of Public works had been working in the area, they had not worked on culvert # 2 at the lower marsh outflow; but the work done was consistent with the departments management efforts in this area. It was rather obvious that some department in the City of Haverhill had indeed done this.

    Mr. Moore further noted that the water level had again returned to its normal elevation at the time the letter was written. The fact is that the water level did return for the sum total of four days, after which it again drained to literally mud, sealing the demise of much of the surviving fished, reptiles and amphibians as it froze solid during the winter. While turtles are evident at all locations in the area where I photograph now, with the exception of one snapping turtle not one turtle has been seen in this area.

    Mr. Moore enthusiastically pointed out last fall during a verbal communication with me that the Conservation Commission, before signing off on the Haverhill Commons Development, required that a turtle breeding pond be constructed. What a shame that much of the resident population likely froze to death last winter before they ever were able to use this!

    This spring, I’ve been constantly documenting the wildlife in this area due to my concerns over inadequate management practices and my fears that the City of Haverhill would once again haphazardly do something to further destroy it. This week my fears have been realized.

    Earlier in April of this year when we received a modest rainstorm the lower marsh immediately flooded over its banks, covering Technology drive for a number of days. In the past, a 4” rainfall would not have caused this, however, due to the complete stripping of the vegetation on the hillside to the East (the Haverhill Commons development) and subsequent direct drainage tie ins to the Lower Marsh area, the slightest rainfall causes this area to flood within a matter of hours. As noted by Mr. Moore in his letter on November 10, 2007, this area has been managed as a storm water runoff in concert with the natural flows of the wetlands system for quite some time. Mr. Moore further noted that a private party owns the lower marsh and that and that permission would be required to work within or permanently alter this marsh.

    Two questions arise relative to the previous paragraph and Mr. Moore’s comments:

    A) Was the stripping of all vegetation of the hillside in the Haverhill Commons Development and the subsequent captive drainage into the Lower Marsh looked at relative to the holding capacity of this system? As Mr. Moore noted, this plan was developed close to two decades ago and my thoughts are that likely this development was not envisioned at this time. If this indeed was recently review during the permitting for the Haverhill Commons development, is a copy of the engineering study and it’s conclusions available for review? As I’ve been a construction project manager for more than twenty years, I’d be very interested in reading the engineering which went into this. Please consider this my formal request as a citizen of Haverhill for a copy of this engineering study and report.

    B) As of 5/7/07 the City of Haverhill has:

    · Removed the beaver dam at the north corner of the upper marsh and preformed substantial, haphazard excavation where it enters directly into Creek Brook. This itself confuses me as this discharge does not enter into the Lower Marsh. The Upper Marsh had not once flooded it’s banks this spring and while it has risen the past year, did not appear to be in danger of flooding.
    · Removed a grate at Culvert #2 in the Lower Marsh which someone (I’ll make the assumption that it was either the City or some well meaning concerned citizen other than myself), and performed substantial earth removal and excavation at Culvert #2 in the Lower Marsh. This uncontrolled excavation will within a mater of days totally drain this system, causing the death of all remaining fish, destruction of water bird nesting sights and overall destruction of these wetlands. As typical, the debris removed was simply piled along the road for all to see. It won’t be a sight many would like to see when predators consume the numerous goslings and ducklings which are now hatching and which will have no escape as the water quickly drains.
    · The question becomes, as Mr. Moore noted that this was private property and that permission must be obtained from the landowner, was this permission requested and granted? Is permitting required by MA DEP or any other agency for this type of excavation, removal of beaver dams etc., and was it requested and obtained?

    Mr. Moore also noted in his letter of November 10, 2006, that an individual (that individual would be myself) had noted that American Bitterns and Bridle Shiners, both of which are endangered species in the State of Massachusetts had been observed here last year and further noted that this would possibly preclude future development in this area. Would this not also send up a flag that this is an area, which should have a management plan and which should be protected?

    Currently, the fact that this area has become a dumping ground for all types of construction debris, home appliances, computer monitors, etc., isn’t my greatest concern. While Mr. Moore noted in the previously referenced letter that the City of Haverhill has cleaned this debris in the past, it obviously is of no concern now as it has existed all winter and it was completely neglected during the recent citywide clean up day. Mr. Moore also noted that the City of Haverhill Conservation Officer “regularly works with the City’s Highway Department to facilitate the removal of accumulated debris at this area”. Please consider this my formal request as a citizen of Haverhill for a written description of “regularly” as this pile has been accumulating for the past 5 months.

    The appearance would be that the City of Haverhill is far more concerned with economic development than one of the most important natural wildlife resources and viewing areas in the city.

    As a resident of Haverhill, I am both dumbfounded, embarrassed and outraged Mr. Mayor that you, your administration and various city agencies allow the killing of wildlife and destruction of wetland habitat to occur within this City.

    As you know, I an accomplished wildlife photographer and although you have asked several times to use my work for the Cities web pages, I must again tell you that I cannot allow that until something is done about this situation.

    The recent story about Mr. Moore’s efforts to locate and protect vernal pools as recently reported on the front page of the Eagle tribune shows that he has at least some knowledge of wetlands and wildlife. Why the Conservation Commission for whom Mr. Moore works and the city government as a whole allows this continuing destruction at Creek Brook is a total mystery to me.

    In the event that neither you nor the Conservation Commission has recently seen what has been done in this area, I’ve updated the online web page, which chronicles these issues with new photos and can be found at:


    If you look closely, you’ll see how the area is left after the city excavates an area. Is this really how the city wants to portray itself?

    I will continue to document both the current wildlife and the destruction of this vital wetlands area.
    It is my intent to do whatever possible as a concerned citizen to further bring this to the attention of the appropriate City of Haverhill governing bodies, the citizens of Haverhill and other communities, newspapers, environmental groups and the applicable state agencies, until something is done to protect this area.


    Jim Fenton
    42 11th Ave
    Haverhill, MA 01830

    Cc via email: City of Haverhill, City Council, City of Haverhill Conservation Commission, City of Haverhill Highway Department, Massachusetts National Heritage Foundation, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Massachusetts Audubon, Essex County Greenbelt, Eagle Tribune Publishing.
  2. Hey Jim, you might want to add to your letter a few things that even my 5th graders in science know about wetlands... :biggrin: (Meaning that obviously the council/mayor don't and need to go back to school) 1. They curb flodding, if that is ever a problem in your area. But more importantly 2. They are a most important part of the ecosystem and water cycle in that wetlands of any sort are the cheapest, most effective way of filtering water. Water goes through the wetland where all the sewage and junk is filtered out before it drops to the water table. By draining wetlands, there is a risk of more contaminated water, which is either a health issue or a cost issue depending on how it's taken care of. I would love to drop an e-mail, but I don't know how effective it would be coming from CA, and I've never personally seen the area you are talking about... But good luck in your fight, it's a most worthy cause.
  3. Baywing


    Feb 22, 2005
    CT USA
    What is the official purpose of this? Is it a culvert replacement project? Not sure how things work in MA, but here, the local Inland Wetlands Commission requires permits for all work, which outlines a construction sequence, in detail. For a project like this, common sense would dictate a coffer dam, sheet pilings maybe needed, but no sense in draining the whole swamp if you aren't dredging the bottom. Sure, pilings cost money, but it makes things so much quicker and easier.
    As I work for Town Gov't, I'll refrain from any political comments on this forum.....
    Otherwise, sounds like you have most of the bases covered, MA EPA/DEP. Sometimes the State agencies have more "influence"
  4. JMartin

    JMartin Guest

    While I am not an activist, I am a nature lover and a lot of my photography revolves around it.

    I am not sure what the heck they are doing, but I know here in Florida our Agencies take wetlands VERY seriously... and I know, my full time job is in civil engineering and I have to deal with the issues of wetlands on nearly every project I work on.

    Here is a photo (taken by my boss) of a project we worked on. We ran a new 60" storm line into an existing lake. I may be wrong, but if we can do something like this to install a new pipe, are you telling me they have to drain a wetland to do maintenance?

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Good luck, Jim, that is truly disturbing.
  5. xwray

    xwray Guest

    Maybe you should contact the feds...they are pretty quick to tell a private citizen he can't use his land as he sees fit because they consider it a wetland. What's good for the goose (ought) to be good for the civil government gander...
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