Friday, February 25, 2011

What is going on on the Charles and the railroad?

1. Introduction.
2. Question not quoted.
3. Marilyn Wellons response.
4. Your editor’s response.
5. Summary.

1. Introduction.

I am trying to be careful here.

A person raised an excellent question on a listserve.

That person got two very good answers. I want to pass on the answers to you and give you enough of the question to keep the answers in context.

2. Question not quoted.

This person has just returned to Cambridge and is confused about the state of Magazine Beach, the BU Bridge, and Fort Washington, along with commuter rail issues. She is wondering about its impact on the area, wildlife and the neighborhood.

The person has done a fair amount of review of the materials and was looking to the listserve for answers. The question came in response to the supposed on line petition against the commuter use of the Grand Junction.

For the information of most readers, I need to identify Fort Washington, one of the sites of interest to the original writer.

Fort Washington is an historical site west of and abutting the Grand Junction railroad. It is a few blocks north of the Charles River, a small historical site between railroad tracks and high tech industry. It is a few blocks from the residential neighborhood. Last I heard, it was one of the few locations where the anti-animal Cambridge City Council has consented NOT to prohibit dogs.

Fort Washington is very close to the location that Cambridge Pols have set for a stop on their really bad streetcar version of the Urban Ring subway. I believe Fort Washington dates back to the revolution.

3. Marilyn Wellons response.

Cambridge and the DCR are responsible for the work you've seen along the Charles, from Magazine Beach (west) to the seawall (east). The work has been segmented, so as to avoid full environmental review as required by law. Kathy Podgers has pointed out the segmentation.

The City of Cambridge favors the transportation projects, centered around the BU and Grand Junction bridges, that the "restorations" support by destroying habitat, installing riverfront infrastructure for cars and small trucks, and speeding the flow of traffic along Mem Drive. Increased commuter rail along the Grand Junction, Urban Ring Phase 2, some invented version of Urban Ring Phase 3, are all successors to the Inner Belt, the first attempt to turn Cambridge into a transportation corridor using this river crossing.

The Wetlands Protection Act prohibits segmentation to avoid proper review of changes to the river, but enforcement is through Conservation Commissions. The Cambridge ConCom has acquiesced in Charles River projects where the DCR violated the Wetlands Protection Act, has approved others despite the DCR's misrepresentations, and has failed to punish the DCR when it flouts the ConCom's Orders of Conditions. It has not objected to the segmentation. Again, people have pointed all this out to the ConCom, to no avail.

Those who welcome the "restorations" to what never was--e.g., Cambridge's work at Magazine Beach--are now faced with the similar segmentation of a project whose tail we see along the Grand Junction rail line.

Other segments of the same project include the expansion of the CSX freight yard in Worcester, development of a hazmat site in the Cedar Swamp Conservation Trust watershed, expansion of highway interchanges within I-495 to handle greatly increased truck freight, and the closing of CSX operations at Beacon Park Yards in Allston.

All of these have environmental consequences that will be dealt with piecemeal--our state and local governments' apparently preferred method of review. Although there's opposition to each of these other segments, the opposition is itself segmented. The project has proceeded on greased skids so far.

CSX's Environmental Notification Form (ENF) in November, 2011, was for the Worcester expansion only. The Secretary of the Environment's subsequent Certificate in December accepted that narrow focus and found no need for full review. Both documents are seriously in error. Their numbers are fluid and the argument for reduced emissions is internally inconsistent, relying on ENF data that the Certificate says must be excluded from the discussion even as it accepts them.

Given what we can see in the ENF and Certificate for Worcester, it is fair to take DOT representations at the most recent Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association with some skepticism, however well meaning any presenter.

There seem to be ways of forcing the wider environmental review the project demands, but it would take a concerted effort among the segmented parts to achieve that, in my opinion.

Marilyn Wellons

4. Your editor’s response.

On Magazine Beach.

The one thing pretty much every civilian agreed upon was that it did not need work.

So the city council has spent something like $1.5 million (plus state money) destroying Magazine Beach, walling it off from the Charles (in the face of a master plan which called for a lawn to the river), dug up seven acres of grass that survived the better part of a century, replaced that grass with sickly stuff that requires poisons to survive, REDUCED the size of the playing field to drain off the poisons.

The bizarre wall of vegetation is the only place on the Charles where the DCR does not destroy the bordering vegetation twice a year.

From the beginning of all this stuff, the key state manager has repeatedly promised to "do no harm" to the Charles River White Geese. He has publicly bragged about starving them because Magazine Beach and its grasses were the principal of these beauties. He explains "no harm" by saying that starving them is no harm.

The state and Cambridge are working to kill off all animals on the Charles River Basin. They call for "parkland" with a secret definition that animals are not welcome on their parkland.

The flat out lying directly and through fake groups is what keeps city council members in office. We have a concerned electorate. The city council incumbents, on environmental and civil rights issues THAT COUNT IN CAMBRIDGE are anathema to their constituents.

So they lie. They do things which are next to meaningless INSOFAR AS THEY COUNT IN CAMBRIDGE and yell and yell and yell and yell that they are holier than everybody else based on this near nonsense.

They keep as quiet as possible their really destructive behavior THAT COUNTS IN CAMBRIDGE and their undisclosed agents run around claiming to be neutral and propagating the lies.

The combination of bragging about next to nothing while suppressing reality which is exactly the opposite is very much lying.

Robert J. La Trémouille

5. Summary.

I think Marilyn did a better job than I.