Comment Letters and Appeals

Support: An Act relative to drought management:
In light of the increasing likelihood of drought and the growing demand for water, there needs to be an effective response to drought in order to protect the Commonwealth’s water resources, wildlife, and public health from the worst effects of future droughts. This bill provides the authority for the Secretary to order water conservation measures, including limits on nonessential outdoor water use, based on the severity of a drought. It provides for actions that have the best chance of minimizing negative impacts of the drought and translates the state’s Drought Management Plan into action. Importantly, it provides for the uniform application of the measures to all water users. Read OARS’ testimony to the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture and OARS’ 2023 testimony to the Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources.

Nagog Pond Water Treatment Plant, Acton/Concord:
Concord proposed to build a new plant to treat the drinking water they withdraw from Nagog Pond in Acton. Of concern to OARS is the expected withdrawals during peak need—the summertime. Concord’s new treatment plant will result in more than tripling the amount of water withdrawn from Nagog Pond. This is water that will be unavailable to the already highly stressed Nagog/Nashoba Brook system. The sound management of this water resource depends on good information. That's why OARS is arguing for flow and temperature monitoring to inform Concord's water management strategy. Scarce resources, like coldwater streams and drinking water supplies, cannot be protected effectively unless municipalities collaborate to make good resource use decisions. Water does not observe town boundaries! Read OARS’ comments on the Special Permit Hearing, and OARS’ comments on the Draft Modified Special Permit following Concord's appeal of the Special Permit to Land Court.

Cascade Wayland 40B development at Mahoneys:
A proposed housing development on Route 20 in Wayland threatens the exceptional trout stream, with a significant healthy population of wild eastern brook trout, that traverses the site. Pine Brook is a state-designated Coldwater Fisheries Resource which affords it a higher level of protection. This project, as proposed, violates just about every rule when it comes to filling, siting, runoff, density, and wastewater disposal. Read OARS’ comments to the ZBA.

Support: H. 2139, an Act to improve water quality and pollution control programs
Oppose: H. 2777, an Act to Enable the Commonwealth's administration of the Massachusetts Pollutant Discharge Elimination System:

These two bills that would have major impacts on the Commonwealth’s water resources were filed in 2017. Both of these bills address the same question, but in two very different ways. The question is how best to use the resources of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) to implement a permit program required by the federal Clean Water Act that protects our state’s surface waters from harmful pollution. Last year Governor Baker proposed that the EPA delegate the NPDES system to MassDEP. House 2777 is the same proposal, with no changes. We oppose that bill. Our response is to “Fix it First”—enable MassDEP to meet its mission whether or not the NPDES program is delegated to the Commonwealth. House 2139 would do exactly that. Read OARS’ testimony to the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.

Nyanza SuperFund Site, Sudbury River:
Decreasing levels of mercury in fish in the Sudbury River in Framingham is good news both in terms of reduced human exposure to mercury and gradual improvement in the health of the ecosystem. Due to this observed improvement, the EPA proposed a change of plan to replace proposed sand-capping of the sediment in Reservoir #2 in Framingham with allowing the sediment to naturally bury the remaining mercury instead. OARS supported this change, with several provisos. Read OARS’ comments.

Water Management Act—Sustainable Water Management Initiative (SWMI):
OARS commented on the state’s draft Sustainable Water Management Initiative, a critical (and overdue) state policy framework that was finalized in 2012 and incorporated into regulations in 2014. See OARS’ comments on the draft Framework and those of the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance. See OARS’ comments on the draft revised Regulations. SWMI was the Massachusetts state environmental agencies’ multi-stakeholder process, begun in January 2010, to improve the way the state manages its water allocations. See the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs SWMI webpage.

Water Management Act—Water Withdrawal Permitting:
OARS reviews applications for large water withdrawals (over 100,000 gallons per day) in the watershed since these may affect the flow of streams and rivers. Applications for new 20-year permits were submitted in 2015 and OARS commented on three of them: Ashland, Hopkinton and Concord.

Clean Water Act—delegation of authority from EPA to MassDEP:
In 2016, the Governor filed H-4254 seeking move pollutant discharge permitting from the federal EPA to the state DEP. OARS testified that this action was not in the interest of the Commonwealth’s citizens or our environment. The Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture took the time to seriously consider the bill and voted to hold it for study.

Clean Water Act—Wastewater Discharge Permitting (EPA/DEP):
Wastewater discharges to surface waters are regulated under the Clean Water Act through the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits, issued jointly by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Mass. Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). In 2005 OAR appealed three of four NPDES permits issued for the municipal plants discharging to the river, sample appeal. The appeal was settled in 2006. OARS also commented on the Concord and the MCI-Concord draft discharge permits. For NPDES permits, go to:, and click on "Individual Facility Permits." More on Wastewater

Upper Blackstone NPDES Permit for Wastewater Discharge:
The Upper Blackstone wastewater treatment plant discharge from Worcester and surrounding towns has an impact the length of the Blackstone River in Massachusetts and Rhode Island and on Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island. A Letter to to the EPA Regional Administrator from river and bay advocates, spearheaded by the Conservation Law Foundation, was sent to the EPA Regional Administrator in November 2011.

Clean Water Act—Stormwater Discharge Permitting (EPA/DEP):
Polluted stormwater runoff is commonly transported through municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s), and then often discharged, untreated, into local water bodies. The EPA issues a state-wide permit for MS4s. OARS has commented on drafts of this permit in 2011 and 2015 and given oral testimony.

495/MetroWest Suburban Edge Community Commission:
OARS submitted testimony on Water Resources to the Commission, emphasizing that rapid regional development, paired with limited aquifers and reservoir capacity, is now stretching our communities’ water resources to the limit, and many have no alternative sources. Sufficient clean water is essential for economic development and public health and welfare. “Water infrastructure” is far more than the pipes and facilities that convey, clean, and pump water. OARS elaborated four priorities: 1. Invest in new solutions; 2. Strengthen our state environmental agencies; 3. Strengthen local protections; and 4. Build resilience to climate disruption. Read OARS’ testimony.

Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, Concord:
OARS is very pleased to see progress in the construction of rail trails in the watershed. These trails often cross streams and rivers and so extra attention must be paid to doing this in a way that protects the integrity of the riverine and wetlands habitat. With respect to the Nashoba Brook crossing at Rte. 2, OARS had some concerns about how the design might unintentionally limit wildlife passage along Nashoba Brook, and how stone dust building materials, if used, could negatively impact water quality in the streams. Read OARS’ comments.

Eversource Power Line Corridor:
OARS commented on the proposed Sudbury-Hudson Transmission Line which would run through conservation land in Sudbury and Marlborough to get to Hudson. OARS has studied the small streams, including coldwater fisheries resources, present in these conservation areas in depth and continues to monitor their condition. These streams are home to native eastern brook trout. OARS is concerned about the impact of the construction and maintenance of the proposed transmission line on these resources. Read OARS’ comments.

Dam Removal:
Creating fish passage through building fishways or by removing dams is an important way to help restore the health of rivers and streams and their fish populations. OARS commented on the draft Concord River Diadromous Fish Restoration Feasibility Study which focused on the Talbot Mills dam in Billerica, and Centennial Falls and Middlesex Falls dams in Lowell.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC):
Hydoelectric projects must go through FERC review. Small-scale hydro projects, like on the Assabet, seek an "Exemption" from licensing. The Exemption process however requires project review. Clock Tower Place (CTP) in Maynard surrendered their Exemption (OARS comments). In 2015 OARS commented on the new owner's application to start the process of reactivating hydropower at the renamed Mill & Main complex, and gained Intervenor status. Acton Hydro operates their facility at Powdermill Dam under a current Exemption in Acton. More on Hydropower.

Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) Review:
Information on projects MEPA review is available from the bi-weekly Environmental Monitor.
OARS comments on selected projects: Johnson Farm in Sudbury, Mass Pike-Rte. 495 Interchange in Westborough, Hopkinton and Southborough.

Assabet Consortium Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan--CWMP (EOEEA# 12348):
A four-phase study of wastewater management by Hudson, Marlborough, Maynard, Northborough, Shrewsbury and Westborough. The third phase produced a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) in 2006. Comments submitted by OARS and other stakeholders: Conservational Law Foundation, 14 other environmental organizations. The fourth phase produced a Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) in 2007. Comments submitted by OARS and Stow. EOEEA Secretary's Certificate on FEIR, Dec. 3, 2007.

Billerica Power Plant (EOEEA# 13925):
Montgomery Billerica Power Partners (now DG Clean Power) proposes to build a natural-gas fired peaking power plant in Billerica near the Concord River. The plant will use municipal water, drawn from the Concord River, for cooling. OAR submitted comments on the Environmental Notification Form (ENF) and Draft Environmental Impact Report. EOEEA Secretary's Certificate on the FEIR

New England Fisheries Management Council (NEFMC) and river herring bycatch:
A letter to Governor Patrick from river and coastal advocates, asking for the strongest possible measures to protect and restore river herring, sent in September 2011.

OARS also signs onto group sign-on comment letters on many topics relating to OARS' mission. We carefully review the text and add our signature where it supports our work.