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Flooding Lessons for Alewife Towns
Belmont Citizen Herald, October 13, 2005
Letter to the Editor, from Ellen Mass

Dear Editor

The nation has just witnessed one of the greatest environmental and human disasters on record for south central coast residents, because of wetland and marsh abuses and coastline protection oversights.

Lessons should be drawn locally for the Alewife Reservation concerning Little River, its surrounding vegetative protecting buffers of floodplain trees, and likely damage downstream. We, our fish, animals and birds, will feel the loss when wetlands, upland forest and marshes are removed. The proposed destruction at the Belmont uplands rare forest that holds the Reservation together (its core buffer) can never be restored. The Uplands, 15 acres to Pond edge, is too small to properly remeditate, or to restore tree evapotranspiration after the forest (hundreds of trees) have been clearcut, even by 4 acres. Grading will obliterate the large expanse of wetlands at Belmont's Little Pond east. Any GIS map of this public/private area will alert the public.

Strong restoration measures underway include the planned return of acreage to green space by Bulfinch Companies, promising good public access for bikers and conservationists, and natural restoration with the DCR master plan, a rare occurrence in the development industry. One 10 acre storm water constructed wetland, with filtered drainage from Huron Ave by city and state planners, will be excavated and restored to deep, emergent, high marshes and a fish spawning area on lands that are presently covered with invasives and not very productive ecosystems. The other federal, state, and grassroots project of Friends of Alewife Reservation, which includes Belmont citizenry, is now on the state's priority list to restore a marsh west of the new building and to improve water flow to Little River for herring, etc. Both projects will add significant and productive wetland acreage (approximately 20 acres) by increasing ground charge and quality of Little River, and thus the entire watershed. The city's plan is a 95 percent improvement in water quality.

In a tight economy, one must find tax money to fulfill municipal needs, however, uprooting hundred year old trees and felling a rare floodplain forest in the Boston area is not the way to go. It seems that town officials are throwing in the towel before talking to Cambridge about financial exchanges , and also abandoning the Winn Brook, Little Pond, Hill Estates neighbors and dozens of downstream communities that will be affected. The forest owner does not live in the state, but performs colorfully when permitting is in process. Post agreement nightmares have arisen from his Arsenal Mall development. When Uplands' commercial or affordable housing plans return to the drawing boards, we hope they will be scrapped or re-scrutinized.

Ellen Mass
Friends of Alewife Reservation