Sep 23

From the Town Administrator's Desk - September 22, 2022

Posted on September 23, 2022 at 9:27 AM by Tiffany Marletta

Climate Preparedness Week and other Resiliency Efforts
By Gregory T. Federspiel

The Manchester-by-the-Sea Public Library, in partnership with the Massachusetts Library System and Climate CREW (Communities Responding to Extreme Weather) are celebrating Climate Preparedness Week which runs September 24-30.  A virtual lecture and numerous hands-on activities geared toward different age levels are planned.  For a complete list of the activities and how to register visit the Library’s web site.

Featured guided walks include a leisurely walk up Powder House Hill Thursday, 9/29 late morning and a more strenuous two-hour hike through the Wilderness Conservation Area that straddles the Manchester/Essex town line on Friday morning, 9/30.   Manchester Essex Conservation Trust’s Jeff Cochand will lead the Powder House Hill excursion and MECT board member Tom Barrieau will lead the Wilderness Area hike.  Part of the conversations during the outings will include the importance of local land conservation as part of broader efforts to prepare for and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

The importance of healthy ecosystems and the role they can play in making us more resilient to the impacts of climate change is the focus of a second year of study being conducted by a team of researchers from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design on behalf of the four municipalities of Cape Ann.  Funding for this second-year effort was secured from the State by Senator Bruce Tarr and Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante.

(Year 1 efforts are wrapping up and have included a simulation of a Category 3 hurricane on the area, options for how to mitigate some of these devasting impacts, strategies for net zero affordable housing, and emerging technologies for waste to energy conversion (especially timely as Gloucester begins to evaluate plans for a new wastewater treatment plant that could serve all of Cape Ann.  These studies can be found on the web site of TownGreen, a Cape Ann organization advocating for climate resiliency.)   

The study will include conducting an inventory of our open spaces – upland forests, wetlands, salt marshes, and coastline – assessing their current health, and developing recommendations for how we can improve the health of these important ecosystems in order that they help guard against the worst impacts climate change could bring.   Pilot improvement projects will be undertaken in each of the ecosystem types, including an urban environment that can contain small areas of natural habitats providing a surprising level of benefit to a neighborhood.  

Through a separate state grant, Manchester will be studying options for better protecting our core Village area, including our waste water treatment plant and Town Hall, from bigger storms and rising sea levels.  Numerous options will be explored, from nature-based solutions to more traditional “armoring” techniques (e.g.: higher seawalls, a harbor storm gate.)  As part of this local study we want to be sure to capture the preferred approaches a majority of residents have for protection against bigger storms and rising seas.  We will work with our younger residents in an outreach program that includes one on one interviews as well as more traditional public forums to capture the ideas and preferences residents have.

Both of these new projects will be getting underway in the coming months. Interested in getting more involved?  Volunteers are needed to help guide the work and educate your fellow residents about the findings of the studies and how we might best put to use the results.  Please be in touch through the Selectmen’s Office at Town Hall.     

Sep 17

From the Town Administrator's Desk - September 17, 2022

Posted on September 17, 2022 at 11:43 AM by Tiffany Marletta

Water Resources Protection Task Force
By Gregory T. Federspiel

The Water Resources Protection Task Force (Task Force) was created by the Select Board last December to help the Town assess its drinking water resources and to recommend action steps that will ensure the Town has an adequate supply of clean water for domestic consumption for many decades to come. A group of over 20 dedicated volunteers under the leadership of Steve Gang has been collecting background information and new data as they get up to speed on numerous aspects of our water system.

The last time the Town undertook a similar effort was over 30 years ago. The main result of this earlier effort was the completion of the “Horsley Witten Water Resources Protection Plan”, an analysis of our water sources compiled by the consultants of the same name along with a series of recommendations the Town could take to better protect our water supplies. Many but not all of the recommendations were implemented. One of the tasks of the new group is to revisit the old report to see which of the recommendations that were not implemented might still be worthwhile to pursue as well as develop new recommendations. In fact, Scott Horsley, one of the original authors, has been retained by the Task Force to assist in this and other tasks.

Six subcommittees of the Task Force are working on specific areas. A summary of the six and the focus of their work is as follows:

Usage and Demand for Drinking Water: Historic and current trends; indoor vs outdoor use; grey vs black water use; pricing (rate) options; conservation opportunities

Supply and Sources of Drinking Water: Watershed protection; potential new sources; regional options

Effects of Climate Change: Trends and Projections (temperature, precipitation, sea level rise impacts) case studies from other communities

Quality and Contaminants: Treatment levels; PFAS, potential for other contaminants; short/long term solutions

Citizen Awareness and Engagement: Surveys; document citizen concerns; assess willingness to make various tradeoffs

Town Responsibilities, Authority and Accountability: Who should be doing what? Best practices for sustainable management

Staff support for the Task Force is being provided by Grants and Special Projects Coordinator Sue Croft. DPW Director Chuck Dam, who is well versed in water system management and Town Engineer Nate Desrosiers are providing valuable input and guidance to the Task Force. In addition to Scott Horsley, one of the premier water experts in our region, other consultants are being utilized as necessary.

One new consultant is being brought in to help verify where the water comes from that feeds our main reservoir, Gravelly Pond. Using thermo-imaging, we should get a better picture of ground water travel into the pond which in turn, will help guide future watershed protection efforts and contamination risk reduction.

The Town also is utilizing the EPA “CREAT” Tool (Climate Resilience Evaluation and Awareness) which is helping us assess impacts on our water system that we can expect as climate change continues to advance.

The Task Force continues to hold public meetings as they advance their work over the coming months. They will be providing updates to the Select Board at regular meetings ultimately providing various recommendations to the Board that aim to ensure a reliable, high quality supply of drinking water for decades to come.

Sep 09

From the Town Administrator's Desk - September 9, 2022

Posted on September 9, 2022 at 9:30 AM by Tiffany Marletta

Options for Maintaining Safe Boating in Sand Dollar Cove
By Bion Pike and Gregory T. Federspiel

As the summer boating season starts to wind down, an assessment of the season will begin.  A re-occurring concern, highlighted by record crowds on hot and sunny weekends this summer, is the use of Sand Dollar Cove (SDC), a protected, shallow-water area at the entrance to Manchester’s harbor.   No decisions regarding any new regulations of the use of the Cove have been made nor will any be considered until after the Harbormaster, the Police Department and the Harbor Advisory Committee (HAC) have had a chance to consider options for the Select Board to consider come early winter.

Currently there is a petition circulating in and around the North Shore advocating for no new restrictions regarding SDC.  The petition incorrectly states that wealthy landowners along the shore are pushing to block access to the Cove.  The concerns about boater safety are coming from the Harbormaster and Police Department staff as they struggle to ensure safe use when some 300 boats or more converge on the area.  Nor are the landowners making claims about eelgrass damage though some boaters and the Manchester Conservation Commission have raised this concern in the past.  Eelgrass degradation is a concern along the coast with restoration efforts taking place in various locations.  Manchester received a grant to replace conventional tackle with alternative tackle that does not continuously sweep along the ocean floor.  

Other harbor concerns – the placement of moorings within the harbor proper, the possible expansion of public floats and the proposed expansion of our two local marinas, has prompted a call by a group of residents for a Harbor Master Plan.  This group has been invited to attend the Select Board’s meeting on September 19th to discuss the possibility of developing a Harbor Master Plan.  The concerns about SDC are not on the agenda for the 19th as the Select Board does not have recommendations yet from the public safety departments or the HAC. As stated above, this will likely occur in the early winter months.

Ultimately it is the US Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers who make the decisions about the installation of day use moorings or elimination of open anchoring in SDC.  Thus, even if the local recommendation is to move in this direction it will not be a local decision to turn away potential users of the Cove.  

Sand Dollar Cove use has evolved over many decades.  Up until about 2014 the area was used for water skiing, tubing and small sailboat regattas.  There is still on the books an official FAA approved float plane landing zone.  None of these traditional activities are possible today at least on weekends.  Indeed, the large numbers of boats visiting now is a significant change from years ago – not necessarily a bad change as the number of boaters increases but none-the-less a change that necessitates a discussion on how this new level of use can remain safe for all.  

As the popularity of SDC has grown, discussions need to take place on how best to maintain a safe boating environment.  We have been fortunate that a major accident has not happened though incidents have occurred just outside the Cove area. With people swimming around boats and boats moving in and out, coupled with alcohol consumption, it is not hard to imagine a tragic incident occurring.  SDC falls within the Town’s policing jurisdiction. It is incumbent on us to pro-actively work on measures that ensure the area remains a fun and safe environment for all who want to use the Cove.  

Solutions might range from more active patrolling on weekends to a more coordinated anchoring alignment that makes navigation safer.  There is a balance to be achieved here – people want unrestricted access, but we also want to maintain a safe environment. Use regulations of a popular natural resource are something any state or national park user has had to come to terms with.  We may need to consider new measures for SDC as well.