Joint Cranberry Bog Committee shares ideas

by Karina Coombs

On January 28 the Carlisle-Chelmsford Joint Cranberry Bog Committee met in Carlisle to discuss the cranberry growing operation and the 300-acres of bog and surrounding conservation land the two towns share. The committee discussed several items ranging from dam repair at the bog to Chelmsford’s invasive species review. The committee has been together for one year and this marks their third meeting.

Dike repair

Cranberry grower Mark Duffy provided the committee with an update on the status of the breached bog dike damaged during the October 2011 nor’easter. He told the group the repairs were not finished because of weather and equipment problems. Duffy was unable to secure funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and instead used on-site materials in the repair. As is typical of cranberry bog construction, Duffy used compacted gravel to pack the dam. He noted that the dam always leaked “a little” so he is taking the opportunity to make it both higher and wider, requiring him to truck in more material. Duffy explained the water level was down a little from its maximum, but as the gravel settles, he will increase the water level for winter and watch to see what happens in the spring.

Chelmsford Conservation Commission (ConsCom) member Cori Rose asked Duffy if he thought the repairs were sustainable over the long term. Duffy explained that the dam is functional and is “probably better than it was before it was breached.” Said Duffy, “If it breaches, it runs on the cranberry bog and nothing goes downstream. Depending on other issues it should last a long time.” He further explained that the dike has two flumes and the breach occurred next to where an old wooden water control structure had been since the bog was built. Chelmsford Cranberry Bog Steward Tom Wilson noted that the water level had been higher when the wooden water control was still there. Responded Duffy, “We’ll get more water in there, but the water goes up and down. I want it higher but I don’t want it to fail. [We] can’t run it full unless we know what’s going on upstream and what happens when water does come. It is a big issue of how full you keep the reservoir, so it doesn’t go over the top.”

Bog lease

The committee also discussed the cranberry bog lease renewal. Carlisle ConsCom Chair Kelly Guarino explained that Carlisle had formed a committee to start fleshing out the details before the lease ran out in June 2015. Guarino noted that there were nine Carlisle residents on the lease committee and the group would meet during the next three weeks. Since the lease runs out during a harvest season, Guarino was aware of the timeliness of the matter and hopes to have everything in place by the beginning of 2015.

Bog House renovation

ConsCom Bog Steward Warren Lyman gave a brief update on the Bog House renovation and explained that $9,000 remains of the original $165,000 Community Preservation Act fund. He noted that there were still some “loose ends” to take care of for the property and they would be addressed by March or April.

Water flow measurements

Lyman also expressed his concern about water flow through the entire cranberry bog system and water uses, particularly future uses like well water withdrawals. He explained that he was in the early stages of researching a way to measure water flows in the brook and is trying to determine if the state could provide technical help in setting up a stream flow monitoring station and program. With such a system, Carlisle could take recordings and submit them to a publicly accessible database. Lyman is currently working on an application to submit to the state. Rose offered assistance from Chelmsford in the process if needed.

Chelmsford Water District plans

Chelmsford Conservation Agent Alison LeFlore distributed copies of a letter written by the Chelmsford ConsCom Chair Christopher Garrahan to the Chelmsford Board of Water Commissioners. Writing in response to the Water District’s decision to temporarily withdraw their intent to drill for water at the Barnes Terrace location near the bog, Garrahan wrote that he was “pleased to hear that a more economical and timely water alternative to the Barnes Terrace location is now available.” Despite being members of the Chelmsford ConsCom, neither Rose nor LeFlore knew what these “alternatives” were or what led the Chelmsford Water District to renew its desire to drill wells in this area in the first place, noting that the district was not a town entity. “[The] interesting part is that [it] mentioned alternatives, but I don’t know what they are referring to,” said Rose. The committee also discussed the existence of a hydrology report pre-dating the sale of the bog property as open space to the two towns. Rose told the group she would try to find out who did the report so the committee could see it.

Invasive species research

Rose informed the committee that she would be conducting an invasive species review on the Chelmsford side of the bog on February 2. Joining her will be LeFlore and a few other interested residents. Noting that water levels had decreased because of the breach in the dike, Rose is concerned that phragmites—a common reed—may have increased in the area. Duffy asked if the group would also be looking at muskrats, but was told they would be on a future agenda. Duffy explained that muskrats and beavers were causing a “terrible problem” in the bog. Said Duffy, “When I’m accused of doing something [with the water] it is often them.” Guarino asked Rose if the group would be looking at water chestnuts, but Rose informed her that it was too soon to look at aquatic invasive species and that would be something to pursue in the spring and summer months.

Wilson noted that someone other than a land steward was working on an easterly bog trail. He described a trail near the water’s edge that is at least 30 years old, narrow and primarily for deer. Wilson determined that someone had been cutting logs and lining the trail, thus widening it and making it more permanent. Wilson is concerned that sensitive areas along the path will become too established and will negatively impact the wildlife in the area. Of particular note, said Wilson, is the danger to the river otter should the trail become “established” and more popular. Rose noted that she would remove any logs discovered during her invasive species review. Wilson will make sure to let anyone he sees working in the area know that they are not allowed to modify the trails.

The joint committee agreed that its immediate goals were to look at invasive species in both Carlisle and Chelmsford in the spring and perform a thorough analysis. They also agreed that some action had to be taken to control dogs on the property. The committee will meet again in June. ∆