Plans to build a 290-unit housing, park, restaurant and retail complex along the Merrimack River in Bradford are slowing down with the state Department of Environmental Protection exercising its right to conduct its own review.
In a letter, dated last Wednesday, Jill Provencal, a state environmental analyst, notified the Procopio Companies and the city that “It is MassDEP’s opinion that the project proposal and the (Haverhill Conservation Commission’s order of conditions) do not contribute to the protection of interests identified in the (Wetlands Protection) Act…” The specific issue calls for the developer, of what will be known as “The Beck,” to provide storage for periodic flood waters. Conservation Commission Vice-Chair and Community Liaison Ralph T. Basiliere predicted the issue will be overcome and the project moves forward.
“Basically, the DEP wants to take a second look—so, this is a procedural issue. We respect their right to do so and we are cooperating with them and expect a resolution to this question in short order,” he told WHAV.
State environmental officials, in similar rulings, explain flood waters are both retained—that is, slowly released through evaporation and percolation—and detained, slowly released through surface discharge to Bordering Land Subject to Flooding. The agency notes, in some cases, “over time, incremental filling or development of these areas causes increases in the extent and level of flooding by eliminating flood storage volume or by restricting flows, thereby causing increases in damage to public and private properties.”
Technically, the state appealed the order of conditions approved by the Conservation Commission Oct. 21 and, as Provencal writes in the letter, the environmental agency is “assuming jurisdiction.” She notes officials will soon conduct a site visit. Basiliere outlines how the process works.
“This is the playing field that the DEP has chosen to resolve internal policy questions on compensatory storage, but ultimately, these questions will be answered and a superseding order of conditions will be coming down,” he said.
The state said that no activities may take place “on any portion of the project site” affected by the issue until a new order is issued and all appeal periods have ended.
The Haverhill Conservation Commission next meets Thursday, Nov. 18.