Boston — The Romney administration is illegally draining the largest body of clean open water remaining in Quincy even while appeals to save it are still pending, according to photographs released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Emptying Blue Hills Reservoir will eliminate a prime game fishing spot and irretrievably scar the natural scenery of a more than century-old park that provided one of the few bucolic escapes for an increasingly urbanized population.
From a legal point of view, the move destroys 8.7 acres of state and federally protected wetlands in violation of “no-net-loss” policies requiring filled wetlands to be replaced. After a state administrative law judge ruled the proposal to fill the reservoir without adequate mitigation was in violation of both Massachusetts’ law and policy, Romney appointees overrode that decision and are proceeding despite the fact that appeals are still ongoing.
Once the reservoir is drained, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority will bury huge concrete tanks, each 40 feet high and 240 feet in diameter, filled with 20 million gallons of water to serve as a one-day emergency drinking water reserve for 100,000 customers, mostly in Quincy. The site will then be covered with dirt and sod.
“This episode in microcosm illustrates the real environmental policies of the Romney administration,” stated New England PEER Director Kyla Bennett, a biologist formerly with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “This is tantamount to paving paradise to put down a bomb shelter.”
Apart from the wisdom of tearing up the scenic heart of a natural park protected since 1893, the action would be the largest net loss of wetlands in the Commonwealth since 1990.
PEER is also working with a local group, the Friends of Blue Hills, to stop the project. Friends of Blue Hills will file a lawsuit once the current administrative appeal is exhausted.
“Knowing that there would be legal challenges, why are these high officials in such a hurry to rip up this beautiful place?” Bennett asked.