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April 3rd Trial Summary
by Ellen Mass and Stanley Dzierzeski
Wildlife: A Centerpiece of Silver Maple Trial
Thanks to Cassie Norton for keeping Belmonters apprised of the silver maple forest trial, now ongoing at regional Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
A major focus of the silver maple legal defense during the March 10th Massachusetts DEP Hearing in Wilmington attempted to discredit the Belmont Conservation Commission key witness and scientist, David Webster by questioning his judgement on storm water run off observations rather than his pre-filed testimony evidence and his knowledge of the woodlands site. At the onset of the April 3rd continuation Hearing, Judge Beverly Coles Roby initiated the review of Webster's degrees and experience and employment background by calling him to the stand herself. The witness holds essential scientific testimony to the case, including storm water run-off and mounding figures which are challenging those of Mr. Albrecht of Tetra Tech-Rizzo for the developer of O'Neill Properties. Not only is the Commissioner for Belmont a noted permitted for the US-EPA, but Webster's professional experience includes the Mass Environmental Policy Act (MEPA), preparing reports for the state agencies for permitting other projects. He has extensive federal Superfund experience, with supervision experience of hazardous waste management for New England. He holds expertise in the fields of pollution prevention for the federal government and now issues permits from US- EPA throughout New England for storm water discharge, and is also as a supervisor. Mr. Webster is a Commissioner for the Belmont Conservation Commission for 4 years. Mr David Albrecht, chief engineer for the defense, had no university engineering degree, but is a PE (Professional Engineer).
Wildlife assessor Julie Vondrak, highly experienced in wildlife assessment, without formal degrees in the field, was asked about correspondence evidence to Cambridge requesting the Cambridge Conservation Commission to consider speeding up the permitting process in order to coincide with the permits by Belmont from DEP. Faustino Lichauco, attorney for the Belmont Conservation Commission plaintiffs reminded Vondrak that these memos must be shared by all parties, and that the memo was questionable advocacy. Further evidence was prevented by the Judge.
Vondrak was also questioned on significant changes to the "Wildlife Habitat Replication/Enhancement Plan" which she said was updated as late as February 09, when 2000 feet was added to the habitat impact area, said Attorney Bracken for the Interveners. Bracken said the plan showed a double-counting impact with the habitat replication area, not allowed by DEP standards. Asked why she and Firm of Epsilon did not respond to Miriam Weil, chair of the Belmont Conservation Commission, to do an evaluation of the Upper Floodplain, where a main body section of the almost 300 unit building will be constructed. Bracken questioned why both firms, working as a Team, showed vastly different figures for wildlife replication of almost 300 percent. She explained. that things there had changed over time.. Cross-examination was ended. Other questions related to Bordering Lands Subject to Flooding (BLSF) impacts which are prevalent on Upper Floodplain, but which were not evaluated by the owner's team. On the site visit at the maple forests, observations had been taken by Vondrak of some woody debris and some dead trees, and future plans for natural plantings and bird boxes which would replicate the destroyed landscape and meet the Wetlands Protection Act standards of 1.1 replication. More will be submitted to Letters to the Editor on storm water cross examination as well and from the next trial on April 27th. Staff from the Herald are needed to cover the proceedings.
Stanley Dzierzeski and Ellen Mass for the DEP Adjudicatory Hearing Interveners