Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Turtles get right-of-way on Weymouth base

By Ed Baker
Wicked Local Weymouth

Weymouth —
Eastern Box Turtles will get their own pathway at the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station when the first phase of a two-lane parkway is scheduled for completion in June, 2012.

During separate public hearings on Sept. 27, the South Shore Tri-Town Corp. board of directors approved a Notice of Intent and a Determination of Applicability for Vanasse Hangen Brustlin (VHB) to complete some land clearing near a wetlands at the base for construction of the East-West Parkway.

VHB administrative assistant Lisa Stanley said that the box turtles nest in an area north of a runway and west of the Old Swamp River that flows through a portion of the base.

“These two areas will be cleared of trees and the litter there will be raked up,” Stanley told the board. “The objective is to turn these areas into turtle nesting habitats.”

The Eastern Box Turtle is a small yellow-dotted amphibian that is protected under the state’s natural heritage and endangered species program.

Eastern Box Turtles are found along streams, bogs, marshes, and moist or dry woodlands in Massachusetts.

“The land will be cleared, and our plan is to ship the trees away to be chipped,” Stanley said. “The cleared area will be left for the turtles to access, and it will be accessible to them by next spring.”

She said that there are about 50 box turtles that nest on the base.

“They are on areas that are owned by LNR (Property Corp.) and are not in developed areas,” Stanley said. “The turtles live in conservation areas.”

She said that the parkway would have two wire-meshed fences to keep the turtles off the parkway after it is built.

A pathway under the road would provide the turtles access to their habitats.

Stanley said that roadway contractors would be required to keep the turtles off the parkway and an access road to the site while the two-lane road is being built.

“We want to clear an existing dirt road to be able to use to get the construction equipment in,” she said. “There will be a small fence to keep the turtles off the access road, and we will use jersey barriers to keep trucks from going into the wetlands.”

VHB’s plan includes placing an orange silt fence around the wetlands for truck drivers to avoid disturbing the restricted area.

“We will use hay stacks near the wetlands to protect them (the turtles),” Stanley said.

The construction of the parkway will begin with a design plan that is one quarter complete.

Stanley said that the first phase of the road would begin 300 feet west of the Old Swamp River and continue to Weymouth Street in Rockland.

“It is at a 25 percent design stage,” she said.

Hours after the News went to press on Sept. 28, the Rockland conservation commission was scheduled to review VHB’s request for a master permit to be issued for the portion of the parkway that extends through Rockland.

“We will come back to you for your approval once we get to a 75 percent design phase,” Stanley told the board. “We will submit the 75 percent design stage plan to you.”

Weymouth resident Tricia Pries said she appreciates the attempts to protect the turtles, but is uneasy about work being done on a parkway with only a 25 percent design phase completed.

“What if it gets halted by the Rockland conservation commission?” she said.

Steve Ivas, president of Ivas Environmental of Norwell, said he does not believe that Rockland officials would reject a permit request to construct the roadway.

“If a roadblock occurs, we will deal with that,” said Jeffrey Wall, chairman of the board.

Construction of the parkway is expected to get underway within a few weeks.

The road with two passing lanes in each direction will eventually give drivers access to the base from Route 18 near Trotter Road to Hingham Street near Reservoir Park Drive.

Gov. Deval Patrick and local officials broke ground for the roadway in July.

Patrick has committed $42.6 million in state aid to construct the road in a 30-year bond bill that lawmakers approved last year.

The funding includes $8 million in previous federal aid and $15 million in stimulus funding.

The state Department of Transportation gave the parkway construction a boost when it closed on a $30 million bond on June 30.

The bond will provide a major source of funding for the construction of the parkway.

Source: Wicked Local

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