Conservation Commission Hears Plans to Protect Sturgeon at 290-Unit Bradford Housing, Retail Site

“The Beck,” near the Bradford commuter rail station. (Courtesy rendering.)

Plans for a 290-unit housing and commercial development on the Merrimack River in Bradford will require conditions to protect two endangered sturgeon species.

The Haverhill Conservation Commission formally hears Procopio Companies’ notice of intent this Thursday—the first meeting since the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife declared the former Ornsteen Heel factory site borders areas that are habitat for the Atlantic Sturgeon and Shortnose Sturgeon. Fisheries and Wildlife Assistant Director Everose Schlüter wrote last Friday, that besides being listed under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act and Wetlands Protection Act, the fish are also listed as endangered and threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973.

“The Merrimack River is important habitat for both Atlantic and Shortnose Sturgeon for foraging, breeding, migration and overwintering. These species are…born in freshwater from eggs and then live in their birth river,” Schlüter wrote.

The state is also asking for more information about plans for public access to the river, particularly alternative riverbank alteration and grading, alternative means of access such as pre-fabricated wood or metal stairs to a floating dock system instead of a graded pathway system and features of protective “conservation moorings,” and managing invasive species and vegetation.

Haverhill Conservation Commission Vice Chair and Community Liaison Ralph T. Basiliere said, “There’s no surprises in the letter. MassWildlife and the Commission hold all parties wishing to perform work within our jurisdiction to equal and exact standards.” He added, “We look forward to seeing the Procopio solutions to MassWildlife questions.”

The Haverhill City Council voted 8-1 to approve a special permit for, what will be known as “The Beck,” in May. Approval came after the developer showed plans for a nearly $2 million realignment and signalization of adjacent streets. The complex includes two five-story buildings and a 3.2-acre public park adjacent to the Comeau Bridge. It will also include land now occupied by Skateland and an abandoned gas station.

The Haverhill Conservation Commission meets online Thursday, Aug. 5, at 7:15 p.m.

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