Thursday, December 18, 2008

BU Bridge work and environmental damage

Marilyn Wellons reports on her e-mail letter dated December 17, 2008, to David Mohler, Deputy Secretary for Planning in the Executive Office of Transportation, about plans for the Boston University Bridge, and posts the letter below.


At Boston and Cambridge Conservation Commission hearings on August 20 and November 17, 2008, respectively, the Department of Conservation and Recreation showed its plans to repair the bridge. They include a "rehabilitation" of the stormwater system. Unlike other work on the structure, this "rehabilitation" actually increases its footprint--the area of ground it covers--rather than conform to the existing one.

At a public meeting on October 16, 2008 at Boston University, DCR Deputy Commissioner for Operations Jack Murray stated that the DCR is a parks agency first and manager of highways second. However, in Cambridge the new stormwater system will inflict serious and permanent damage to the urban wild that is home to the Charles River White Geese, Canada geese, mallard ducks, rabbits, hawks, and migrating songbirds, among other species. The damage to the goose meadow is consistent with the DCR's long-standing plan to eliminate the Charles River White Geese from the river through habitat destruction, among other means.

At the BU meeting Mr. Murray also said that, under the terms of the Accelerated Bridge Program (ABP), the footprint cannot be expanded to accommodate better, safer bicycle and pedestrian access.

Whether the footprint can nevertheless expand for the DCR's new stormwater system is the question posed in my e-mail to Deputy Secretary Mohler. I believe he chairs the newly established ABP Oversight Council.

The question arises because the DCR has invoked M.G.L. Chapter 91, the recently revised law governing certain work in filled tidal wetlands. By invoking Ch. 91, the DCR effectively nullifies the Cambridge Conservation Commission's ability under the Wetlands Protection Act to require an alternative stormwater system that would avoid damage to the environment. Thus on November 17 the Cambridge ConCom found it was unable to require the DCR to tie drainage from the BU Bridge into the DCR's own stormwater system for Memorial Drive at the Reid Overpass, treat it with the device planned, and use Mem Drive's existing outfall--drain pipe--into the river. This was a possibility the DCR acknowledged in its Cambridge filing. The DCR nevertheless chose to add the new structure.

The two new structures on the Boston and Cambridge ends of the bridge expand its footprint. As such, they require a pro forma license from the Department of Environmental Protection. The letters cited in my e-mail to David Mohler are correspondence between the DCR consultant and DEP officials concerning the expanded footprint and the DEP's determination that the DCR needs a new Ch. 91 license for the footprint's new elements.

The matter of the expanded footprint is not, I think, trivial. Given current concern about the state's transportation funding crisis and history with the Big Dig, this question of control seems to have some point. Holding bridge repairs to the existing footprint is a primary ABP means of control over scope and cost. It will be interesting to learn what Mr. Mohler's take on the issue is.

E-mail letter:

Dear David Mohler:

It is my understanding that the Accelerated Bridge Program requires repairs to conform to any given bridge's existing footprint. For example, the Boston University Bridge cannot be expanded to accommodate bicycles, despite the great need.

Most of the work to repair the BU Bridge will be within the existing footprint. However, the Department of Conservation and Recreation's proposal for "rehabilitation of the existing stormwater management system" will expand it.

This seems contrary to the terms of the ABP. Since you supervise this program I write [to] ask for your opinion.

Please see the letter, attached here, from DCR consultant Kathryn Barnicle to Ben Lynch and Alex Strysky, Department of Environmental Protection Waterways Regulation Program, dated October 24, 2008. In para. 2, Ms. Barnicle states that "[t]he only work proposed outside of the existing footprint of the bridge is two stormwater outfalls needed to meet the Massachusetts Stormwater Policy." The letter includes plans for reach of these new structures, one in Boston, one in Cambridge.

Also attached is Mr. Lynch's response to Ms. Barnicle, dated November 20, 2008. In paras. 2 and 3, Mr. Lynch distinguishes between work to repair the bridge, which requires no new Chapter 91 license, and the "additional outfalls and associated drainage structures." These are "new structures . . . and therefore require c. 91 licensing prior to construction of those drainage facilities."

The structures are shown on plans on pp. 3-4 of Ms. Barnicle's letter as well as in DCR filings with the Boston and Cambridge Conservation Commissions.

In the DCR's Notice of Intent, filed with the Cambridge Conservation Commission (DEP File # 123-0215, August, 2008 [Revised October 2008]) Drawings No. 3 and 4 show the extent of the change. Section 3.2, Proposed Work, describes the change to the footprint on the Cambridge side in some detail (plans for equivalent changes to the footprint on the Boston side [is] in the DCR's NOI with the Boston Conservation Commission, DEP # 006-1171):

"The water quality structure will be a [hydrodynamic separator] installed 25 feet east of the bridge . . . . Extending from the water quality structure will be 120 feet of 12 inch concrete pipe. . . . At the end of the line a flared end section will be mated to the new pipe and a riprap channel will be installed . . . . The riprap channel will extend 5 feet from the water line to the outlet of the pipe" (p. 3-2).

Cleaning up Boston Harbor is an important and necessary task. Given the crisis in our transportation system, maintaining the integrity of the Accelerated Bridge Program is also critically important.

The DCR has identified a means of doing both: tying the new drainage system and hydrodynamic separator to the Memorial Drive stormwater system at the BU Bridge (Cambridge NOI, Section This would also, presumably, work in Boston at Storrow Drive/Soldiers Field Road. The agency nevertheless has opted to change the bridge's footprint, with attendant damage to riverfront parkland.

I would be grateful if you would let me know your opinion, as the official charged with the ABP, of the proposed change to the BU Bridge's footprint. I will call to follow up later this week . . . .

Yours sincerely,

Marilyn Wellons

[Attachments as indicated above.]

Friday, December 12, 2008

Good person saves a lost goose.

Bob La Trémouille reports;

Last night, the weather was so bad, very heavy wind and rain, that a golden retriever I am familiar with refused to go out for her evening walk.

In the middle of this mess, Bernice Gittes of Pearl Street, Cambridge, realized she had a Charles River White Goose lost in her yard.

She and her son gave our lost friend an escort back to the river, one on either side, prodding him in the right direction.

Good person.

Thank you very much.

Monday, December 08, 2008

What is the Judge in the Monteiro Case Doing?

The jury decision in the Monteiro case came down in late May.

To no surprise, the opinion of the jury was strikingly similar to the opinion of a very clear majority of people in the street and of outsiders viewing things in the City of Cambridge.

You see, very easily a majority of the most visible "organizations" in the City of Cambridge have been created by friends of the Cambridge City Manager at the request of the Cambridge City Manager (or his minions), and, to no great surprise, operate to protect the Cambridge City Manager. The key people in these organizations praise the heck out of the City Manager and his nine similarly bad city councilors. Their words are commonly great. Their actions are commonly exactly the opposite, and they cannot understand the problem.

The jury expressed a much more common and very much an outsider view of the City of Cambridge and the Cambridge City Manager. The jury expressed contempt for the Cambridge City Manager. The jury found that the Cambridge City Manager deliberately destroyed a woman’s life because she had the nerve to file a civil rights claim against him.

The jury expressed their contempt as powerfully as they could. The jury ordered $1.1 million or so in actual damages and $3.5 million in penal damages to be paid by the City of Cambridge to Ms. Monteiro.

The city filed motions to reverse the decision. These motions, for the most part, had already been decided in a similar motion before a different judge. One exception, mentioned in the Globe article cited in a prior report, was that the Cambridge City Manager stated that he was mistreated by the failure of the jury to learn that the Civil Rights complaint which was the source of the retaliation was thrown out by a prior jury. So a bad civil rights complaint gives the Cambridge City Manager the right to destroy a woman’s life? That is quite simply not the law.

Also filed was a motion to reduce the award of damages.

The motions were heard in a hearing on June 10, and three filings followed. The first, by the City of Cambridge, was described as papers. The second was described as the plaintiff’s response. The third, on August 4, was a motion by the city to strike the plaintiff’s response.

Now we sit.

I have no access to the papers. They are on the judge’s desk. I have thus no real knowledge as to the content of the papers, only to their titles on the court’s formal list of papers which is called the court docket.

The motion to strike the plaintiff’s response to the city’s papers is highly unusual. Apparently the judge allowed Cambridge to file papers with regard to an argument at the hearing, and allowed the plaintiff to respond to the papers. The motion to strike was apparently the only avenue open to the city to respond to a plaintiff’s paper which was probably devastating.

It would be unusual for the judge to reverse the jury, especially in light of the prior judge’s ruling in the same case.

It seems to me that the judge is responding to motion to reduce damages. The jury socked Cambridge with pretty much the maximum allowed under US Supreme Court decisions, three times damages. It is very difficult to justify such an award in general, but such reprehensible behavior could possibly justify it.

The jury used a broad weapon, money, to respond to really bad behavior.

The judge is not so limited, especially since she had the city’s motion to reduce in front of her. The judge has powers of "equity" in Superior Court in addition to the powers the jury has.

I think she is recognizing that the monetary damages do not hit the point directly enough. I think she is looking at a series of statutes by which the legislature has dictated forfeiture of pension rights in response to severely gross misbehavior in office.

I think she is working on an order replacing part of the monetary punitive damages with an order that the Cambridge City Manager be fired and his pension stripped.

I find such an order a reasonable response to reprehensible behavior, another example of the contempt by decent human beings to the status quo in the City of Cambridge.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

A response to an environmental destroyer – State Representative Martha Walz

Bob La Trémouille

State Representative Martha Walz is one of the few people with filthy hands to publicly brag about the outrage going on on the Charles River within half a mile of the BU Bridge.

A few days ago, she put out an email to constituents “informing” the constituents about plans on the Charles River and neglecting to mention her very reprehensible part in the plans.

The following is my response:


Walz has been in the middle of the totally unnecessary heartless abuse of the Charles River White Geese, and the destruction of the Charles River from the beginning of her term.

She is just as vile as nine heartless members of the Cambridge City Council.

If she were a decent human being:

1. The bizarre starvation wall of designer bushes preventing access between Magazine Beach and the Charles River would be regularly chopped down or destroyed.

2. The biannual destruction of useful protective vegetation throughout the Charles River between the harbor and the Watertown dam would end.

3. The sick destruction of green maintenance at Magazine Beach would end. Green maintenance would be restored. The HEARTLESS, TOTALLY UNNECESSARY starvation attacks on the Charles River White Geese would end, and they would be allowed to return to their 25 year home and food at Magazine Beach BEFORE the BU Bridge repairs start.

4. Fancy drainage pits in Magazine Beach to drain off the totally unnecessary poisons would be ended. If you are not using poisons, you do not need the fancy drainage.

5. The near total destruction of ground vegetation by the DCR between the BU Bridge and the BU Boathouse would be reversed. The destruction of all undestroyed ground vegetation in that area by the BU Bridge repairs would be ended. The only destruction would be within 25 feet of the BU Bridge. Staging would be placed under Memorial Drive where it belongs. Work would start only after the Charles River White Geese were returned to a green Magazine Beach. The White Geese would be allowed to nest as necessary and the construction be fenced in that 25 foot area.

6. The annual poisoning of the eggs of waterfowl on the Charles River would end.

7. Introduction of light pollution on Charles River bridges would be reversed.

8. The reprehensible Charles River Conservancy would be recognized as the sick entity it is and be barred from future destruction on the Charles River .

But Walz is not a decent human. Walz is just another irresponsible, destructive rotter like the nine Cambridge City Councilors and the Cantabridgians in the State House.