SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE
Please note that About Weston has observed goings on at the superblock that includes the unified school campus since even before this website began in 1998; we have consolidated those aspects relating to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its involvement in the Schools/Fields project here, on this new sub-page!



MS4 Finalized by end of 2016.
The Army Corps of Engineers played a role in the School Construction process.  And the impact of D.E.E.P. reaction of the school project controversies still resonates re:  MS4 planning/engineering funding.


     
U . S .   A r m y   C o r p s   o f   E n g i n e e r s

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

...Who should apply for a permit?

Any person, firm, or agency (including Federal, state, and local government agencies) planning to work in navigable waters of the United States, or discharge (dump, place, deposit) dredged or fill material in waters of the United States, including wetlands, must first obtain a permit from the Corps of Engineers. Permits, licenses, variances, or similar authorization may also be required by other Federal, state and local statutes...from the FAQ page.

CONTENTS:

Weston School Campus Construction:  How is this relevant to Global Facilities planning in 2015?

Elsewhere:







In 2015, discussion of Public Safety Complex brings Hurlbutt septic system into play...so where exactly is it located???



The Onion Barn Field is located to the left of the Barn itself (above);  Hurlbutt Buildings next and the Hurlbutt softball field last.



HURLBUTT HAS SEPTIC SYSTEM - NOT TIED INTO TERTIARY TREATMENT PLANT ON SCHOOL ROAD
Core Building, East House with new windows and roof;  across the "quad" looking from South House to East House;  and then there is North House with basement and two stories.

Hurlbutt Elementary School: North House plans are still up in the air

Weston FORUM
By Patricia Gay on November 20, 2012

The Weston school district is considering giving a portion of the North House section of Hurlbutt Elementary School to the town. Most likely, the Senior Center, now located in a portion of South House, would move to North House.

The Weston school district is considering giving a portion of the North House section of Hurlbutt Elementary School to the town. Most likely, the Senior Center, now located in a portion of South House, would move to North House.

The Weston Board of Education has postponed voting on the status of North House at Hurlbutt Elementary School— whether to hand over part of it to the town for municipal use — until its Dec. 17 meeting.

The issue was originally going to be discussed and possibly voted on by the board on Nov. 19. However, because of the time crunch caused by storm Sandy, Superintendent Colleen Palmer said school officials want to give people more time to hear about the proposal for North House and weigh in with their opinions.

North House has been a topic of discussion at recent school board committee meetings, PTO meetings, and a “Coffee with the Superintendent” held last Saturday.

Dr. Palmer is asking the public to send questions about North House to her at sblog@westonps.org; she will address them on her blog on the school’s website, westonps.org.

The Board of Selectmen initially was also going to discuss North House at its meeting on Monday, Nov. 19, but deleted the item from its agenda in light of the school board’s decision not to vote on the matter until next month.

“It is school property and the selectmen are not making any decisions until the schools decide what they are going to do,” First Selectman Gayle Weinstein said last Thursday.
..story in full at the FORUM.



Wetlands remediation begins at Weston Middle School

Weston FORUM
Written by Kimberly Donnelly
Thursday, 19 July 2012 09:30

A $330,000 wetland remediation project behind Weston Middle School has begun.

Workers from Sum-Co Ecocontracting of Salem, Mass., were on site as of July 9, removing invasive vegetation like cattails and grading the area to improve natural drainage.

Tom Landry, town administrator, explained that when the intermediate school was built six or seven years ago, "it encompassed some invasion of wetlands." The Army Corps of Engineers allows this as long as comparable areas of wetlands are created in other areas.

Several smaller patches were created, but "didn't take," Mr. Landry said. This is a relatively common occurrence, he said, so the Army Corps of Engineers did not require the town to redo them, but when it came to the area behind the middle school, "they told us, 'This one's big enough that you need to redo it,'" Mr. Landry said.

The main problem is the elevations behind the middle school were changed so that pre-existing wetlands behind the high school started to not drain properly. The work being done now includes slightly flattening the area and creating a channel for water to flow more freely to where it is supposed to go.

When plans were drawn up in 2009, the engineer estimated the project would cost about $120,000. But by the time bids came in nearly a year later, they were about two-and-a-half times that, Mr. Landry said.

The town withdrew the plans and bid slightly different specs, but the result was "not much better," the town administrator said.

Ultimately, the town contracted with Sum-Co for $237,585. But, Mr. Landry said, there was an additional cost of almost $100,000 for site and design work.

Because the remediation work involves a lot of loud, heavy machinery, the town received permission from the corps to delay the project — which originally had a completion date that would have put construction during the school year — until this summer...story in full at the FORUM.






PREVIOUSLY...DURING SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION PROCESS...


Army Corps of Engineers: 
what they received from Triton (cc. to Owners Rep), and sent back to, the Town of Weston (with minor changes);  four (4) examples of plans and one S&E detail shown below.

EXISTING CONDITIONS...This is what is there now (2003).  AND PROPOSED (r).
  Click on maps, for larger versions.

     
READING THE FINE PRINT
Lots more impervious surfaces in the plan (new school building, doubling of high school and parking and roads), don't you think?  Does this require compensation by creating additional wetlands?  Yup.  To be precise, 2.64 acres more (in addition to existing 19 acres of existing wetland).  That on a parcel of 109 plus acres total.





CONSTRUCTION ISN'T PRETTY, IN THE WINTER PICTURE



S
pecial summer of 2004 camp and campus use:  ABOVE, winter at WHS, 2005: 

Traffic summer 2014 entered School Road from Lord's Highway - did not go past back entrance to WMS;  from the Weston Road side, traffic probably not allowed much past B.O.E./Kinderland, IIRC.  Provision for EMERGENCY ACCESS, OF COURSE, IS IN THIS PLAN.





THE PLAN:  This map show the three (3) existing buildings plus improvements and new "3-4-5 school"  Click on map for larger version.





OVERALL PLAN:  There are separate detailed drawings of each activity having wetland impact
- click on map for larger version.






THIS IS HOW IT WORKS:  Less than an acre (above) of "activity" in wetlands requires 2.64 acres of "mitigation" for example...
click on map for blow up.








THE CROWNING GLORY OF THE PROJECT WAS "W.I.S." - THE 3-4-5 BUILDING (under construction, above).





SPECIFIC PLAN FOR AREA NEAR TENNIS COURTS:  Located in between W.I.S. and W.H.S.

This was an early part of the plan that aroused neighbors from Parade Ground Court and caused School Building Committee to revise early site plan.  Click on map for blow up.



Source:  selected pages from Triton Environmental, Inc. report dated (covering letter) November 20, 2003.






Education / Athletics Complex's PrioritiesOr perhaps, community values?  Explanation here as to "lighted fields" and their significance. 

  
First meeting included light and sound tests;  Second reviewed sports seasons (winter & spring), plans for a special prior to school in Fall;

THE LIGHTS AND SOUND TEST DECEMBER 3, 2014, 6PM UNDER SUPERVISION OF LIGHTS COMMITTEE
With permission, Musco and Committee members ventured onto private property using flashlights, by the light of the Moon.  Sunset over second quarterly meeting.

 

LIGHTED FIELDS:  A TOPIC OF INTEREST TO ABOUT TOWN FOR MORE THAN A DECADE




         

LIGHTS COMMITTEE SUMMARY - There will be a report given to the Board of Selectmen at its June 30th meeting on next steps.  Which appear to be to find the screening funding and expertise to design the best additional protection for the neighbors.  But unless there are specific requests and identification of needs, it will be, my choice of words here, like working in the dark.  Special Meeting of Lights Committee at the end of August or early September to move forward with planting in the proper season (and not lose a year because of bureaucratic delay - my words again).  It is pointed out to Lights Committee members representing the Selectmen and the Board of Education that the planting designed to screen the dumpsters is awesome and works, but the berm, designed to have plantings atop, was not as successful.




In the beginning there was a football field and a dirt track, the "beginning" being as of November 15, 2001.  That is the date the Weston Schools and Fields Bond Issue passed.


GROUND GAME
In order to get the numbers down from $124 million - which would not have passed - the town leadership pared the project down to only $79 million.  Left out were several items that became public-private partnerships.
One of the things that got cut out was lights for lighted fields - but through good planning, the infrastructure to support future installation of lights at the football field and soccer field remained in the package that went to Referendum...



August 21, 2001 Special Board of Selectmen's Meeting:
Five other Boards & Committees report at Library in 4 hours+ 

At Weston Library...the scene was set, air conditioning at full blast (and so no hot air) and no "public input" either, as advertised.
It was quite extraordinary.  In one place, at one time, the five (5) different Town Boards and/or Commissions or Special Committees who had played a part in determining the future of the Weston School System and the Central Part of town came together (not all in person).  The opinions that might be expressed either unintentionally or on purpose are those of this WEBsite.

SCHOOLS
The Board of Education
First to be called upon, the "B.O.E." made their pitch.  Financial figures were supplied by the Director of Finance of the B.O.E. regarding ten year regular budget costs looking "forward" ten years.  Construction cost was presented by the Chair. and the Board Member who had sat on the Select Team.  Bottom line: $65 million NET.

The School Building Committee
Following the Board of Education came the School Building Committee; the Chair. of this official Committee specifically called out gross (we think) numbers for other construction:
HIGH SCHOOL - $36,793,480
NEW 3-4-5 - $27,978,275
MIDDLE SCHOOL - $3,279,562
EAST&SOUTH HOUSES - $10,246,795
SCHOOL ROAD (to reconfigure) - approx. $1,500,000
_______________________________
TOTAL - $79,798,112 GROSS  (NET total $3.2 million higher than Board of Education number)

The Select Team
The Co-Chair. of this Ad Hoc Committee reported on their supporting activities, including the "Impact of Town Operating Budget and School Expansion Debt Service Costs" document (dated August 15, 2001).  This group is intending to develop informational tools regarding the items that will ultimately go to Referendum.


SEPTIC SYSTEMS

The Select Committee on the Impact of Sewage Treatment on the Character of Weston was not present.  Information was given by the First Selectman that the consultant had submitted a report stating that $2.4 million to $2.6 million was the cost of completely redoing (including recycling and tertiary treatment) - although the Department of Environmental Protection had not approved the final details of the full construction of systems and other treatment structures in the program yet.  The higher figure represents recycling of water at the new building (we think).


PARKS & RECREATION
"About Town" had had enough by this time (@10:30pm);  the Parks and Recreation Commission spoke of the shifting use of fields - and how many would be lost during construction.  Plans for Bisceglie and Morehouse Farm Park (Minerva Heady's land) and school campus total $10.5 million. Of this larger total,s as a subtotal amount, are plans for...2 little league fields, 3 multi-use fields, 2 tennis courts (is that enough?) and concession stand, lighting of 2 athletic fields, playground, nature trails and board walks, overlook (great view), water supply--and a SKATE PARK come to...$4.2 million (subtotal).  And some more items.  Breaking down these numbers further, according to written material available at the door, fields at Bisceglie for school and adult use (softball and baseball) might come to $400,000.  The big loser in all the plans is tennis (six courts lost on School Road)...does this make sense to you?
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The bottom line?  "About Town" counted maybe $93 million gross to do it all.  But what do I know?

Next step is for the Board of Selectmen to recommend a number (and the projects to be included, we presume)...




"Let there be lights and there were lights"
The whole community enjoys the use of schools and fields, WHS is the emergency shelter, for tennis and to keep in shape on the beautiful all weather track - which is now lit for night use!.




QUARTERLY PUBLIC MEETINGS OF LIGHTS COMMITTEE AND SPECIAL MEETINGS


SPECIAL VIEWING ON SITE, DECEMBER 3, 2014, BEGINNING AT 6PM.

Present:  Chair. (Selectman), Board of Ed member, staff from Parks&Rec, staff from Board of Ed, Musco rep, neighbors.
 


Test of new sound system and the lights on neighboring properties done.
Now that they have "worn in" it was time to see if the lights were doing what the Selectmen had wanted ("zero" intrusion).



Had you noticed these houses in September?  How far away is the home that has its outside light on? 

Does any of this relate to the issue of the loudspeaker system - or "less-loud" loudspeaker system? 

Weston High School ball field puts lights to the test
Story in FORUM here:  http://www.thewestonforum.com/23691/weston-high-school-ball-field-puts-lights-to-the-test/?utm_source=Weston+Forum&utm_campaign=a06da7e386-FO_IN_THIS_WEEKS&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_848b12f59d-a06da7e386-193260349

...“When we were walking behind the field, we couldn’t hear Sal talking,” Mr. Muller said. “We could hear the music, though.”


He said decibel readings were about 61 to 62 decibels at the property line. “We’re now trying to get an idea of what does that mean.”

For one of the neighbors, Sandy Block of Parade Ground Court, it likely means it’s too loud.

Mr. Block, whose property does not abut the playing field but is nearby, said he would like the decibel level capped at about 50. That’s the level that was agreed upon in a court case that involved Fairfield University and its neighbors as the maximum sound level at the property line. “We could use that as a benchmark,” Mr. Block said...
Please read the article in full - it appears that the "Lights Committee" process is working.




Bright lights! 
Here you have a good view of what can be seen by Parade Ground Court, perhaps not the exact angle.



Field closed and padlocked.  In the pitch black (off the field) intrepid participants marched into the woods...
Paved paths, where there were any, were used, and then in the dark of night, across the grass and into the trees for those properly shod or really adventurous...



Orange points of light are outdoor illumination on neighboring properties, we think.
We were surprised that anything came out on this photos (remember, no flash).  The densely treed property was illuminated - but was it the field lighting - see above?




First meeting of Lights Committee (5 members)
Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014, 7:30pm in Town Hall Meeting Room

 Present:  David Muller, Chair. (Selectman);  Elise Major, Board of Education; neighbors (2);  Dr. Keating and Joe Olenik.

At first meeting of Lights Committee - what happened:


·         Only Stadium Field at high school is under their control (there had been some questions raised by neighbors of the lighted soccer field that it would be nice to use this Committee as clearing house for their questions, too).  The Committee is, however, not empowered to look further than the Stadium Field.
 
·         (See picture above of crane) I asked Dr. Keating and Joe Olenik at this first Lights Committee meeting tonight, prior to its beginning, and they said they were putting up the air handlers on the high school roof (since we ended up with the money to do so because the windows&doors project this past summer same in way under budget) for air conditioning the E-Wing new rooms.
 
·         This is a very good Committee – David Muller is the Chair. – they see themselves as the first stop for people with complaints and those who have suggestions about the football field “Stadium” lights to go.  They intend to help solve the problems by referring folks to the right place for answers.
 
·         Although they will be meeting quarterly (this was the first meeting), they intend to have other meetings as necessary.  Besides filing their minutes in a timely fashion, I get the feeling that they want to be seen as at the front line of problems – for example, they are going to find out how things have gone so far in terms of following the M.O.U.
 
·         Special Meeting:  For example:  Nov. 19 at sunset/when it is dark, they intend to meet to check out spillage as well as sound.  Up until now, they have not gone on private property to measure light seepage; but if neighbors want them to see something on their own properties, Nov. 19 would be the time to give permission for measurement devices to be used on these private properties.

Next meeting in January 2015.  However, Special Meetings will be called in between.

Lights, camera...24 hour test review September 4, 2014 - all hands on deck!


We entered as if we were going to the tennis courts...I wonder if there is a parking plan for football games?

The problem, as had been anticipated at the Board of Selectmen...
What happens when the leaves are down?  Please note the "bounce" effect on the visitor side.


After parking, we took our first photo facing east, toward Weston High School (in the back of this picture).

We kept on walking east, and took this picture (we were using a flash).



The mellifluous voice of WHS announcer (is that really you, Sal?) does a voice test - to tell if the new sound system measurements in reality are what they were supposed to be!


NO RESIDENCES BEHIND HOME STANDS - "BOUNCE" EFFECT NEUTRALIZED
This is just the beginning of the story of how it came to be that Weston, CT high school sports programs made it possible for more students and adults to keep in shape!

Mother Nature upstaged.
Doesn't the moon look sad?
  Has "Company" ever performed Kurt Weill's The Threepenny Opera?  We saw it in "...Marc Blitzstein's version which ran during the 1950's for six years and featured the incomparable Lotte Lenya..." as this Youtube description reminds me (how long ago that was).  Boy, did it make an impression on me!


The actual wording of the opening line to this song is "See the moon over dock street?"







What's next?  First came the soccer field (behind the press box)...times two
In 2014 Weston, it was a big "yes" by governmental agencies involved.  Did the taxpayers under write these projects?  Not entirely and the upkeep of replacing turf is supposed to come from users - which means the sports clubs - but we are pretty sure the town pays for it in part through the education budget.  And then there is the electricity bill for the lights...




Musco  Lighting from Wikipedia - more can be found there.


PLANNING AND ZONING COMMISSION,
MONDAY, MAY 19, 2014, 8:15PM IN TOWN HALL MEETING ROOM ON TOWN TV
8-24 review of Town of Weston application for permanent lights for football field - to be used for many events five nights a week and weekends.   At right, 2009 rear view of press box, sans big lights.


AT the BOARD OF SELECTMEN, MAY 1, 2014



Lower left in a tie, neighbors' attorney, attempting to claim that the Town is no longer exempt from zoning - was cut off.

Neighbors and others who opposed stadium lights had their time before the Selectmen, having submitted extensive reports of their own. 

IRONY KNOWS NO BOUNDS...WHAT'S NEXT?  LIGHTING THE TENNIS COURTS?

Who will speak for those who don't think the Board of Selectmen should be making decisions about 80 foot lights for night football?  Or for the "parade of the horribles" of what the lights proposed will lead to...

Who else but Wild Things founder and pitcher, whose letter was read into the record by the gentleman on the lower left.  The cell tower at Town Hall is 195 feet high, serving as communication center vital link and with all carriers on the same pole, to minimize impact on others, is also not directly abutting a residential area

Is "Friday Night Football" in the same class as emergency communications?  Is that high school football, grand American southern and mid-western tradition, really what Westonites want to override their dark night skies? 

Appropriate phrasing...PUNT:  Put it to a "yes" or "no" vote in November, perhaps?  Or...

If the Board of Selectmen moves ahead and votes or takes an action (see section 3.6 of the Town Charter, below - which is online)  in favor of "Stadium" lights, which are being pitched as a method to "bring us together" and improve community spirit, there is an action to combat this - If those opposed can muster 318 signatures* of eligible town meeting voters, try a "Petition for Overrule of Action of Board of Selectmen" (see below from Weston Town Charter).  This might not be a good solution because individuals might find themselves targets of those who are in favor of the proposal.



And there is a third thing to consider.  Is it worth fighting and winning a legal battle, spending money, destroying the comity of the town?  Who wins in the end?  Remember this Special Town Meeting?

-------------
*
= Since 127 was the 2% number for ATBM, divided that by 2 and multiply by 5 and you have the number of signatures needed - but check with the Town Clerk.





Judge blocks Obama EPA rule as federal power grab over state waters
By Stephen Dinan, The Washington Times - Thursday, August 27, 2015

President Obama’s push to extend the EPA’s regulatory hand to ditches and small streams to enforce clean water rules was blocked Thursday by a federal judge, who said the administration had overstepped its bounds in trying yet another end run around Congress.

Judge Ralph R. Erickson called the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt “inexplicable, arbitrary and devoid of a reasoned process,” and issued an injunction preventing the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from claiming oversight of millions of acres of land that contain small bodies of water...story in full at Washington TIMES.
 




Friday, January 28, 2005 Stamford ADVOCATE:
Plan to light Little League field rejected
By Donna Porstner

STAMFORD -- The Parks and Recreation Commission last night turned down a request to light the Federal Little League field at West Beach.

Members Jo-Anne Hand, Thomas Lombardo and Vincent Martino voted against the project during the commission's monthly meeting, saying they are sympathetic to neighbors who oppose the project. The commission's fourth member, Julian Sayer, was absent.

"People said the lights would shine in their bedroom windows, their children wouldn't be able to sleep -- they'd lose their privacy," Hand said in an interview after the meeting at Government Center.

Martino said he received phone calls from neighbors asking him to vote against the proposal.

Federal Little League officials wrote to the city in August, seeking approval to purchase six 60-foot-tall light poles at their own expense.

Federal Little League President Joe Russo did not attend last night's meeting, but in a telephone interview afterward said he was surprised and disappointed by the commission's decision.

"We thought we had a very good chance of getting the lights because the purchase and installation would have all been funded by us," Russo said. "I'm very disappointed with the outcome of the vote and what we're going to do is explore any other avenues to appeal."

Park neighbor Peter Weissman, vice president of the Marina Bay condominum board, applauded the commisson's decision....

story in full at Stamford Advocate




Lighted Fields Divide Towns;  Neighbors Fight Plans For Night Games

August 15, 2004
By MARYELLEN FILLO, Hartford Courant Staff Writer

Judy Emmick and Ron Rodd joke that they could sell hot dogs from the comfortable deck of their home to fans sitting in the Wethersfield High School bleachers just 30 feet away.

"If I want to know the score of the game I just look out the window," Emmick said, as she and her husband look beyond the bleachers to the massive renovation underway at the school's Cottone Field in Wethersfield.

Twenty miles away in a another residential neighborhood in Simsbury, Adam Sharaf stands in the middle of his manicured yard looking over a clutch of birch and evergreen trees to the Simsbury High School bleachers that offer fans a bird's-eye view of his home.

"That's where the band sits for home games," he said, pointing to the top rows that rise above the tree line. "I can wave to them during home games."

These are residents who have lived next to public high school athletic fields for years. They have tolerated the seasonal cacophony of over-exuberant fans and bands; noisy, street-clogging traffic; and the assorted other intrusions that come with living close to such a venue.

But at least, they say, it was limited to the daytime.

Now, as advocates push for the installation of lights to allow nighttime play, the residents have drawn the line on neighborly goodwill.

"There is nothing good about the installation of lights," said Emmick, who with her husband and others in the Wethersfield neighborhood are fighting a plan to install lights on the renovated field.

"There are larger consequences here," said Rodd, who contends that the project has been "rammed through" by a faction of local politicians. "We are not anti-sports, or anti-kids or selfish," he continued. "But this is a flawed process that is turning a desirable neighborhood into an undesirable one. We are trying to protect our homes."

The controversy in the two towns is a repeat of standoffs that have taken place over the years in thousands of towns across the state and the country. For many years, families living near schools in residential areas learned to co-exist with the associated activities, including a few football, baseball or soccer games.


But as lifestyles changed, and the number, types and participation in interscholastic sports increased, schools began seeking ways to extend the use of their fields, raise money and attendance and accommodate the growing number of working parents who can't get to daytime games.

Lighting has been the answer....

Story in full at the Hartford Courant



There are other cities and town along L.I.S. with such structures.
New London Maritime Society takes over as New London Ledge Light owner
DAY
Shelly Yang
8-6-15
   
A tour of the lighthouse was held after the United States General Services Administration transferred the deed to the lighthouse to the New London Maritime Society at the society's Custom House Maritime Museum...video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSXbo3yhldc.






Miss. River Reopened to Vessels After Oil Removed
NYTIMES
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

February 2, 2013


VICKSBURG, Miss. (AP) — The Coast Guard has reopened the Mississippi River to vessel traffic in both directions after finishing the cleanup of thousands of gallons of oil from a leaking barge.

Officials said in a news release Saturday that the safety zone has been reduced to one mile on either side of the two barges that collided with a railroad bridge near Vicksburg last Sunday, causing a leak from one barge. Vessels are not permitted to pass or overtake other vessels within the zone...story in full at NYTIMES.


Mississippi River Barge Backup Tops 1,000 After Oil Spill
NYTIMES
By REUTERS
January 30, 2013

(Reuters) - More than 1,000 barges were backed up on the Mississippi River near Vicksburg, Mississippi, on Wednesday after a weekend barge accident and oil spill forced the closure of the major shipping artery, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

An 80,000-gallon tanker barge that struck a railroad bridge on Sunday continued to leak crude oil, but cleanup crews have deployed 2,800 feet of boom to contain the spill and airborne spotters have not detected any oil outside the containment area.

Response crews will lighter the oil from the damaged barge before removing the vessel from the river, but a timeline for a full reopening of the waterway to commercial shipping traffic remains unclear.

"A timeline is really hard to establish with an operation like this because there are so many factors, from getting the lightering operation set up to getting the pumping operation going," said Coast Guard spokesman Matthew Schofield.

"We want to make sure we're doing it in a safe and methodical manner:..story in full at NYTIMES.



Barge hits Miss. River bridge: Oil cleanup ongoing
DAY
Jan 28, 9:21 AM EST


JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- The Coast Guard says a normally bustling stretch of the Mississippi River remains closed to barge and ship traffic as cleanup crews with booms work to remove an oily sheen near Vicksburg after a barge with 80,000 gallons of oil hit a railroad bridge last weekend.

Coast Guard Lt. Ryan Gomez told The Associated Press on Monday that at least 21 other vessels such as towboats and barges are stalled by the river closing as crews with booms and a skimming device are removing hundreds of gallons of oily water from the river...story in full at New London DAY.



Drought threatens to halt critical barge traffic on Mississippi
By DARRYL FEARS The Washington Post
Article published Jan 7, 2013

On a stretch of the Mississippi River, the U.S. Coast Guard has been reduced to playing traffic cop.

For eight hours a day, shipping is allowed to move one way in the 180 miles of river between St. Louis, Mo., and Cairo, Ill., depending on the hour. For the other 16 hours, boats go nowhere, because the river is closed to traffic.

The mighty Mississippi, parched by the historic summer drought, is on the verge of reaching a new low. That could mean that tugboats pushing barges loaded with billions of dollars worth of cargo - enough to fill half a million 18 wheelers - would not be able to make their way up and down the river.

Through the night, contractors for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers remove rocks from a stretch near Thebes, Ill., that threaten to cut boats to shreds. The corps has assured state officials, farmers and coal barons who rely on the shipping that it can maintain the nine-foot level it says makes navigation safe.

But those who rely on the river say they are worried nevertheless...story in full at Washington Post.



Obama urged to declare emergency on Mississippi
By ALAN BJERGA Bloomberg News
Publication: The Day
Published 11/29/2012 12:00 AM
Updated 11/28/2012 11:55 PM

Washington - Shippers and lawmakers are pressuring President Obama to declare a federal emergency along the Mississippi River, citing potential "catastrophic consequences" in the Midwest if barge traffic is curtailed by low water on the nation's busiest waterway.

Lawmakers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute urged Obama to tell the Army Corps of Engineers to hasten the planned removal of submerged rocks near Cairo, Ill., that may impede barge traffic at low water levels. The Corps also should stop its seasonal restriction on the flow of Missouri River water into the Mississippi, which it began last week, the groups said.

"We still got a lot of stuff to move down that Mississippi before winter totally sets in," Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said in an interview. "They can release more water, sure they can."

Mississippi River barge traffic is slowing as the worst drought in five decades combines with a seasonal dry period to push water levels to a near-record low, prompting shippers including Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. to seek alternatives. Computer models suggest that without more rain, navigating the Mississippi will start to be affected Dec. 11 and the river will reach a record low Dec. 22, said Corps spokesman Bob Anderson, based in Vicksburg, Miss.

Barges on the Mississippi handle about 60 percent of the nation's grain exports entering the Gulf of Mexico through New Orleans, as well as 22 percent of its petroleum and 20 percent of its coal. About $7 billion worth of commodities usually travel on the Mississippi in December and January, including $2.3 billion of agricultural products and $1.8 billion of chemical goods, according to the American Waterways Operators and Waterways Council Inc.

An emergency declaration would help by directing the Corps to release more water into the Mississippi and remove rock formations south of St. Louis without following federal contracting practices that may delay action, Harkin said.

...story in full at THE DAY.




After Drought, Reducing Water Flow Could Hurt Mississippi River Transport

By JOHN SCHWARTZ, NYTIMES
November 26, 2012

The drought of 2012 has already caused restrictions on barge traffic up and down the Mississippi River. But things are about to get a lot worse.

As part of an annual process, the Army Corps of Engineers has begun reducing the amount of water flowing from the upper Missouri River into the Mississippi, all but ensuring that the economically vital river traffic will be squeezed even further. If water levels fall low enough, the transport of $7 billion in agricultural products, chemicals, coal and petroleum products in December and January alone could be stalled altogether.

“Without the river, we’re in a world of hurt,” said Kathy Mathers, a spokeswoman for the Fertilizer Institute. About half of the spring fertilizer that the industry sells to Midwestern farmers travels upriver, she said, and options to get the fertilizer to the fields by other means are few. “We know the rail cars aren’t there,” she said. The corps reduces water flow from the upper Missouri every year as part of its master plan for maintaining irrigation systems and meeting other water needs of the region, which stretches from Montana to St. Louis. This year the process began on Nov. 11, as the corps began reducing water flows from the Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, S.D. The flow has already been reduced from 37,500 cubic feet per second to 26,500, and will reach 12,000 by Dec. 11.

The plan, approved by Congress, has the power of law. “We do not have the legal authority to operate the Missouri River solely for the benefits of the Mississippi River,” said Monique Farmer, a spokeswoman for the corps.
..story in full at NYTIMES.




The opposite of this?

I
n Midst of a Drought, Keeping Traffic Moving on the Mississippi

By JOHN SCHWARTZ, NYTIMES
August 19, 2012

ABOARD THE DREDGE POTTER, on the Mississippi River — This ship is making sure that the Big River, shrinking under one of the worst droughts in modern history, stays deep enough.

The Potter is scooping this stretch of the Mississippi River’s navigation channel just south of St. Louis, the ship’s 32-foot-wide head sucking up about 60,000 cubic yards of sediment each day and depositing it via a long discharge pipe a thousand feet to the side in a violent, muddy plume that smells like muck and summer.

The Army Corps of Engineers has more than a dozen dredging vessels working the Mississippi this summer. Despite being fed by water flowing in from more than 40 percent of the United States, the river is feeling the ruinous drought affecting so much of the Midwest. Some stretches are nearing the record low-water levels experienced in 1988, when river traffic was suspended in several spots.

That is unlikely this year, because of careful engineering work to keep the largest inland marine system in the world passable. But tow operators are dealing with the shallower channel by hauling fewer barges, loading them lighter and running them more slowly, raising their costs. Since May, about 60 vessels have run aground in the lower Mississippi.

The low water is not just affecting the 500 million tons of cargo like coal, grain and fertilizer that move up and down the river each year. The owners of the American Queen, a paddle-wheel steamboat that takes passengers on tours along the inland waterways, decided not to send the boat below Memphis on a trip to Vicksburg, Miss., this month. The water was deep enough, said Tim Rubacky, a company spokesman, but after conferring with the corps and the Coast Guard, the company decided that the likelihood of a barge accident and ensuing traffic closures would be too great.

“It’s kind of like a truckful of watermelons spilling over on the expressway,” Mr. Rubacky said. “Everything’s going to come to a halt.” The boat tied up at Memphis and sent the passengers on to Vicksburg by bus, he said.

The volume of water coming down the river is so much lower than normal this summer that a wedge of salt water is creeping up the Mississippi toward New Orleans, imperiling local water supplies drawn from the river. The corps is building a sill — basically, a dam of sediment — in the river below New Orleans low enough to block the flow of salt water while letting boats pass...story in full at NYTIMES.




A New Flood, Some Old Truths
NYTIMES editorial
May 27, 2011

The thousands of people forced to abandon their homes in recent weeks to floodwaters are victims not just of nature but of human error as well. Years of mismanagement of the vast Mississippi River ecosystem — the relentless and often inadvisable construction of levees and navigation channels, the paving over of wetlands, the commercial development of flood plains — have made the damage worse than it might otherwise have been.

The Obama administration is now completing an overhaul of the guidelines governing dams, levees and other water-related projects built with federal money. In 2007, Congress ordered the guidelines, unchanged since 1983, rewritten to require federal agencies to take environmental as well as economic concerns into account.

Historically, projects had been shaped by two main factors: the Army Corps of Engineers’ conviction that nature can be subdued by levees and dams, and its reflexive green-lighting of any flood control project that encouraged commercial or agricultural development. The new rules, Congress said, should require the Corps and other federal agencies to give equal weight to less easily measurable benefits like wildlife habitat and to “nonstructural” solutions to flood control like preserving wetlands, flood plains and other “natural systems.”

To give the Corps its due, it has performed nobly in the present emergency. Its main-stem levees have held. Its decision to blow holes in levees guarding the New Madrid floodway in Missouri clearly saved Cairo, Ill., and other places downstream; similar maneuvers in Louisiana helped protect New Orleans. These tactics had long been part of Corps emergency plans, and they worked...editorial in full at NYTIMES.




Yale Farm Plan Drawn Back
May 28, 2005
By RINKER BUCK, Courant Staff Writer
NORTH CANAAN -- Environmentalists and abutting landowners opposed to the Yale Farm Golf Club project won a partial victory this week when the developers abruptly withdrew their application for a permit before the North Canaan Conservation and Inland Wetlands Commission.

The move on Thursday came just two days before a critical vote before the commission and was made so that the developers can relocate two holes away from a sensitive trout stream. The commission will now have to consider the proposal in hearings expected to extend into the fall.
 
New York developer Roland W. Betts has spent three years trying to persuade local, state and federal agencies to approve his plans for an 18-hole course on the grounds of a 780-acre estate in Norfolk and North Canaan, in the face of growing local opposition to the project. But a court reversal of a local wetlands permit, objections by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and well-financed opposition by a neighbors' group, the Canaan Conservation Coalition, have so far stymied his plans.

The EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, the final permitting authority for the project, have been especially concerned about holes 11 and 12. Even after one redesign, those two holes closely followed the steep contours of Hollow Brook, which federal officials have classified as a "Class A" stream with intermittent populations of trout.

Betts has insisted that he needs the challenging terrain around the brook to create a championship course that would attract members willing to pay $100,000 or more in membership fees, and he castigated experts provided by the opposition who said the course could be redesigned away from the brook.

But the Yale Farm development group was forced to reconsider after federal officials asked it to explore moving the holes in an area several hundred yards north of the brook...story in full at Hartford Courant.




Land-Use Battle In North Canaan Turns Personal
August 1, 2004
By RINKER BUCK, Courant Staff Writer

NORTH CANAAN -- Catherine Gevers is a former artistic director of Carnegie Hall in New York and now a classical music consultant who, 11 years ago, followed her dreams and moved full time into a gracious, 18th century house on a hilly, rural lane in this remote northwest corner of the state.

On evenings when the weather was good, Gevers enjoyed nothing more than rounding up her basset hounds, climbing the long, white-graveled drive up on neighboring Yale Farm, and taking in the spectacular views of Canaan Valley and the Berkshires to the north. The land is so named because the farm was formed about a century ago from lands that had been part of a grant from Yale University.

While up on Yale Farm, Gevers often visited with her friends Robin and Henny Mead, the proprietors of the estate's immaculately preserved 780 acres and large manor house on the top of the hill.

But Catherine Gevers doesn't walk her dogs on Yale Farm anymore.

Two years ago, after Robin and Henny Mead died suddenly, their three sons transferred control of Yale Farm to New York uber-developer and presidential friend Roland W. Betts, who wants to turn the property into a championship golf course. The proposed Yale Farm Golf Club has been mired in controversy since then, and this spring, Gevers and a group of abutting neighbors filed four lawsuits against Betts and local land-use commissions over the Yale Farm development...


On July 6, the Waterbury Republican published an article quoting Stephen D. DiLorenzo, the senior project manager who is reviewing the Yale Farm Golf Club file for the Army Corps.

"Based on our meetings with the applicant and the revisions he has submitted, EPA and Fish and Wildlife have all along been telling him he needs to change the design and they haven't backed down yet," DiLorenzo said. Both agencies, DiLorenzo indicated in the article, were "leaning toward a denial" of permits for the project...story in full at Hartford Courant.





Date: March 20, 2002
                                                                        Release No. CT 2002-42
                                                                Contact: Tim Dugan, 978-318-8264
                                                            e-mail: timothy.j.dugan@usace.army.mil
                                                696 Virginia Road, Concord, Massachusetts 01742-2751
 

                 Corps issues Cross Sound permit to place underground cable in Long Island Sound

                 CONCORD, Mass. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has made a determination to
                 issue a Section 10/404 permit to Cross Sound Cable Company to place a cable system
                 in the Long Island Sound, a portion of which will be located in the Federal navigation
                 channel in New Haven Harbor, New Haven, Conn.

                 Cross Sound Cable Company, LLC of Westborough, Mass., applied for a Corps permit in
                 July 2000 to install and maintain an approximately 24-linear mile, high voltage direct
                 current (HVDC) and fiber optic cable system within the seabed of New Haven Harbor and
                 Long Island Sound using the jet plow and directional drill method.

                 The District Engineer signed the permit on March 19. "After careful review by the Army
                 Corps of Engineers and other state and federal agencies, we have determined that this
                 activity is permittable under our jurisdiction of Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act
                 and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act," said Col. Brian Osterndorf, District Engineer of
                 the New England District. "Through review by Corps engineers and biologists in
                 consultation with other Federal, State and local agency representatives, we have
                 concluded that the proposed project will not impact the operation and maintenance of the
                 federal navigation channel in New Haven Harbor, and have minimal impact on the marine
                 environment. The permit is issued with 23 special conditions that must be closely
                 adhered to by the applicant. We thoroughly investigated navigation, environmental,
                 economic and other issues and impacts of the project in our evaluation."

                 The route of the cable will be from the New Haven Harbor Station, New Haven, Conn.,to
                 the decommissioned Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant at Brookhaven, N.Y.

                 The cable must be installed no less than six feet below the seabed or to an elevation of
                 minus 48 feet mean lower low water, whichever is greater, within the boundaries of the
                 Federal Navigation Channel in New Haven Harbor and to a minimum of four feet below
                 the seabed of Long Island Sound outside of the New Haven Navigation Channel.

                 "Placing the cable under the Long Island Sound has been found to meet Federal
                 permitting standards," Osterndorf said. "As part of the permit authorization we are
                 requiring the proponent to place the cables at a minimum depth of 48 feet. This will be 13
                 feet under the authorized depth of the existing Federal channel. This will ensure that the
                 cables do not impede navigation in the channel, nor will they impede any needed
                 maintenance dredging to keep the channel open to navigation. We are requiring a depth
                 that will include enough room for a possible future deepening of the channel if that were
                 to be authorized and funded."

                 The project purpose is to interconnect the electric system power market control areas
                 presently managed by the independent systems operators of both New England and New
                 York. This will enhance the existing power grids of the electric systems serving both
                 states by adding a new bi-directional path for bulk power sales and transfers in and out of
                 Connecticut and New York. The cable will be located mainly within the Federal navigation
                 channel in New Haven Harbor. The landfall at the Shoreham is made through an existing
                 intake canal.

                 The cable will be buried using the jet plow method and/or directional drill method as
                 determined by the contractor. The applicant applied for a Corps permit in July 2000. The
                 Corps issued a public notice for this project on June 24, 2001, with an expiration date
                 Aug. 23, 2001.

                 "We extended the public notice comment period in response to a request from National
                 Marine Fisheries Service," said Christine Godfrey, the Corps’ New England District
                 Regulatory Division chief. "We also held a public information meeting in New Haven to
                 fully understand local concerns and issues. The first proposal was to run the cable about
                 100 feet east of the channel. But due to potential impacts to shellfish beds the
                 Connecticut Siting Council denied the request."

                 The federal channel was suggested so as to minimize any impact to marine life.

                 "There are 23 special conditions that are part of the Corps permit," said Project Manager
                 Diane Ray, of the Corps’ New England District Regulatory Division.

                 "If future operations by the United States require the removal, relocation, or other
                 alteration, of the structures or work authorized, or if, in the opinion of the Secretary of the
                 Army or his authorized representative, the structures or work could cause unreasonable
                 obstruction to the free navigation of the navigable waters, the permittee will be required to
                 remove, relocate, or alter the structural work or obstructions," Ray said.

                 Cable installation is restricted to occur only between Oct. 1 and Jan. 15 or between April
                 1 and May 31 to protect winter flounder and summer flounder as well as shellfish
                 resources. Directional drilling operations as well as dredging of the Intake Canal at
                 Shoreham, N.Y. are not subject to this condition.

                 "The permittee must revisit the cable route on three occasions, at six-month intervals,
                 beginning approximately six months following the installation of the cable to conduct a
                 reverification of the burial depth of the cable," Ray said. Each survey will be recorded and
                 the results submitted to the Corps and Connecticut Department of Environmental
                 Protection (CT DEP). The permittee must contact CT DEP Marine Fisheries Division
                 (MFD) concerning the locations and date of MFD sampling programs and for a list of
                 potentially affected fishermen. The permittee must notify the affected parties of the time
                 and location of cable installation.

                 The permittee must undertake three benthic-monitoring inspections of shellfish bed
                 L-593, the first beginning no later than six months after installation of the cable, with the
                 second and third at six-month intervals thereafter. "The intent of the monitoring will be to
                 determine the rate of sediment reconsolidation and biological recolonization of the
                 disturbed substrate," Ray said. Prior to installation and no later than six months following
                 the charging of the cable, the permittee must conduct monitoring to measure electric and
                 magnetic fields, temperature and habitat disturbance within four, 1,000-foot long reaches
                 of the cable.

                 Also, the permittee or his agents may not formally pursue additional cable installations in
                 this area for a five-year period pending evaluation of the cable monitoring and verification
                 of the modeling of benthic recovery rates upon which this permit decision is based.

                 "The permittee must develop a response plan that will address any emergencies that
                 might arise during the installation of the cable," Ray said.

                 Also, there is a special condition to protect navigation interests. "No person, firm, or
                 corporation will be held liable for damage to the cable system caused by the person, firm
                 or corporation unless the damage is caused by gross negligence or willful or intentional
                 actions," Ray said.

                 The permittee will place no restrictions on commercial aquaculture and/or shellfishing
                 operations in the area of the cable system other than during the cable installation and
                 maintenance operations. And the permittee must post a bond for $1 million for
                 emergency repairs or removal of the cable as determined necessary by the Corps of
                 Engineers.

                 More information on the 23 special conditions are listed in the final permit. The application
                 for the federal permit was filed with the Corps of Engineers in compliance with Section 10
                 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 which provides for the federal regulation of any
                 work in or affecting navigable waters of the United States, and Section 404 of the Clean
                 Water Act which regulates the discharge of dredged or fill material in U.S. waters,
                 including wetlands.

                 "The Corps regulates activities in waterways and wetlands under the authority of several
                 laws," Godfrey said. "The permit program is designed to ensure that our nation’s water
                 resources are safeguarded, that the nation’s water resources are used in the best
                 interest of the public and that environmental, social and economic concerns of the public
                 are considered."

                 "The decision to issue a permit was based on an evaluation of the probable impacts of
                 the proposed activity in the public interest," Godfrey said. "That decision reflects the
                 national concern for both protection and use of important resources. All factors relevant
                 to the proposal were considered. Placing the cable in the federal channel does not set a
                 precedent. We look at each permit application on a case-by-case basis. In this case, it
                 was found to meet the Federal permitting standards. It will have minimal impact to the
                 marine environment and no significant impact on navigation or channel maintenance or
                 future channel deepening."

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