Moving from Rhetoric to Useful Information

Editorial by Executive Director Joe Favaloro

Following months of escalating rhetoric on both sides, it’s time to take a step back and assess what we need to do to move forward. If there is ever going to be a resolution to the off-trail activity debate, there needs to be a better understanding – on all sides – of all the impacts.

Ware River Watershed Management AreasWith this in mind, I strongly believe that any review of the Ware River Watershed public access plan must be preceded by a comprehensive study. The research, conducted by an independent third party, should investigate the issues in question: the impacts of unauthorized trail construction and off-trail activities.

The study should explore how these factors affect the core mission of DCR’s Division of Watershed Supply Protection and Office of Watershed Management, as well as how watershed stakeholders may be impacted, from all trail users, to MWRA customers, and even Ware River communities.

The study must look at the potential technical impacts, including water quality, forest management, and endangered species habitat.

Beyond the technical components, the study should dive into community impacts. What would be the enforcement and cost implications of changes to the access plan?

The study should also establish the context for this debate by examining the history of watershed development: how recreational uses were allowed, the court decision permitting the filtration waiver, and the regulatory and management impacts of this decision.

Finally, we see it as wise to “go beyond” our system and review how other filtered or unfiltered systems manage recreational activities.

This is just a rough outline. Once the study is completed, then an informed determination on the next steps could be made.
I would recommend to the MWRA that they share in the cost of this study with the State. I would further recommend that a representative of recreational activities have a seat on the working committee, along with DWSP, EOEEA, MWRA, and the Advisory Board. Together, their responsibility would be to flesh out the scope of the study and to evaluate the proposals, perhaps with varying perspectives, but equipped with the same facts. In return, I expect the public access rules to be respected and obeyed by all recreational users in the meanwhile.

Again, I stress that my job is to represent the interests of MWRA communities, and this means protecting our watersheds, ensuring our filtration waiver, and providing high quality drinking water to 2.5 million residents of Greater Boston.

I fully recognize that this issue is not limited to the most vocal debaters so far, but rather, affects many. In that spirit, the study ensures the most responsible path moving forward by providing all parties – myself included – with the knowledge to make the most educated decision possible. The stakes are enormous and allowing some fact-finding is the right next step.

Thank You for Your Service – In Appreciation of Walter Woods

Fred Walter
Mr. Woods (l) with Mr. Laskey, MWRA Executive Director

Three months away from his 99th birthday, Walter Woods is retiring from the Advisory Board as the Wellesley representative. Walter has been an integral part of the Advisory Board from day one.

In fact, before day one, he served on the pre-Advisory Board Formation Committee to develop our by-laws, hire staff, and help with other endeavors. Over the next 32 years, Walter served as a member of our Executive Committee, holding at times the offices of Secretary, Chairman of Operations, and Chair of the Advisory Board.

While already impressive, this represents only a fraction of Walter’s career. He is an engineering graduate of MIT, worked as a structural engineer at NASA, designed jet fighters for Republic Aircraft, and served as Chief Mechanical and Engineering Officer for the MBTA. Furthermore, he was elected to the Wellesley Board of Public Works and served over 15 years, including four as Chairman.

Walter Lou (2)
Mr. Woods with Mr. Taverna, current AB Chairman

In his “spare” time, Walter makes wine. Not only is this wine delicious, but it has also been awarded gold medals in numerous competitions. He is an avid gardener, and many have benefited from his expert tips.

MWRA Executive Director Fred Laskey stated at our meeting, “Walter is a true gentleman and a dedicated public servant. Over the years, his sharp intellect and common sense approach have greatly contributed to the success of the MWRA Advisory Board, and in doing so, the success of the MWRA.”

AB Chairman Lou Taverna noted, “Walter has served with distinction and diligence. Our successes today are routed in the commitment of members such as Walter. He is irreplaceable.”

Thank you, Walter, for all that you have contributed.

Shaping MWRA Projects and Initiatives – Giving Communities a Voice

The role of the Advisory Board is to provide feedback on MWRA projects and initiatives. At the January 19 meeting in Canton, the AB weighed in on two such undertakings.

The first was the MWRA’s emerging plans for system-wide water redundancy. Having participated in a half-day information session on redundancy in December, AB members unanimously voted to support an emerging MWRA plan to insure water system redundancy to the metropolitan area.

muniworks side
Community members at the metropolitan redundancy workshop

AB members included five conditions to their recommendation:

1. Use a Program Management Division (PMD) approach, similar to the Boston Harbor Project

2. Select deep rock tunnel versus surface piping alternative

3. Support the MWRA’s recommendation for two tunnels, north and south

4. Recommend that MWRA construct both tunnels concurrently, rather than in a phased manner

5. Pursue strategies that dedicate revenue from non-typical, or one-time water users sources (e.g. drought connections) to help fund the Metropolitan Tunnel Redundancy

The MWRA Board of Directors will take up their discussion on redundancy as we move forward in the spring. The Advisory Board looks forward to participating with the Board and MWRA staff in shaping this critical project.

arlington smoke testing
Smoke testing

AB members also weighed in on expanding eligible projects under the Local Community I/I Grant/Loan Program. This community-initiated discussion was first presented at our Operations Committee meeting in November. Eligible projects now include:

  • Permanent flow monitoring equipment
  • Sewer inspection equipment
  • Building inspections, smoke testing, dye testing
  • Administrative tasks related to planning/development of procedures and public outreach
  • Database development and mapping of connections to public utilities

This expansion will provide communities more tools to upgrade their local sewer systems.

Your voice can make a difference. Please attend AB Operations and regular meetings. There are also seats available on our Executive Committee. Feel free to contact us for more information.