Is town defying DES on Brox?

Activist files complaint citing permit violations

MILFORD – Environ­mental activist Suzanne Fournier filed a formal complaint with the state Department of Environ­mental Services on Mon­day regarding what she calls numerous viola­tions of permit conditions as the town prepares to build sports fields on the Brox property.

DES engineer Gloria Andrews, however, says the town isn’t violating its permit.

Milford is building two athletic fields on town-owned land near the Heron Pond elementary school, a plan opposed by Fournier’s group, Brox Environmental Citizens.

Two endangered reptile species, the Blanding’s turtle and the Eastern hognosed snake, are said to be on or near the prop­erty, and Fournier says the town is putting them at risk. She alleges that removal of an earthen berm on the site last week violates an alteration-of-terrain permit obtained from the DES.

"Conditions provided by Fish and Game’s Non­game and Endangered Species Conservation Pro­gram were included in the permit to minimize the potential adverse impacts to state or federally listed threatened or endangered species or their habitat," she wrote in an email.

Andrews said in an email to town officials that no violations were found. Recent work has been in the gravel pit area, she said and that doesn’t require a permit because it is a grandfa­thered pit – existing be­fore 1981, when the rules were adopted.

Fournier also alleges other violations, includ­ing removal of soil before vegetation was removed. A biologist should have been on-site immediately prior to earth removal, she said, and there was no silt fence around the site, two state require­ments.

Town Administrator Mark Bender said Monday the town is in close con­tact with the DES to make sure workers are fulfilling all state requirements.

"We are really trying to be extremely respectful" of the environment, he said, but there is a differ­ence of opinion as to the sequence of operations.

Bender said that Rick Riendeau, Department of Public Works direc­tor, has been walking the site every day looking for threatened and endan­gered species.

"If we see a snake, we will assume it is a hog­nosed snake, he said. "We are taking an extremely conservative and cau­tious approach."

Andrews, who went to the site with town of­ficials on Sept. 28 in response to the com­plaints, also said the town is putting up a silt fence around the site to prevent any endangered species from entering. Peter Spear, the wildlife biologist hired by the town, was on the site, as well, she said.

In a letter to the town’s consulting firm, Field­stone Land Consultants, Spear said he spent most of a day there and "did not locate any unusual species or their sign.

"I looked under as many logs, telephone poles, rocks and discard­ed construction materi­als as I was able to lift. There were no snakes, toads, frogs, salamanders or turtles observed," ex­cept for one old turtle nest.

"The site is extraordi­narily xeric (dry) and not particularly inviting to herptiles," he wrote.

Audrey Fraizer, chair­woman of the Milford Conservation Commis­sion, was on the site last week, Andrews wrote, and had questioned whether employees had received training in the identification of endan­gered species potentially present on the site, which is one of the permit’s con­ditions.

Riendeau "told me that he had shown all the workers pictures of the endangered species," Andrews said. "He also had laminated pictures of them in his truck. The workers were told that they should stop work right away if they see any animals within the proj­ect area."

Fraizer also questioned the use of plastic welded construction fence locat­ed on the roadside of the project.

"The town has since se­cured the fence to keep it 4 to 6 inches off the ground," Andrews said.

Fournier, however, says no biologist was on the site when a vegeta­tive berm was removed and during logging of the site.

A biologist is supposed to be there immediately prior to those activities to make sure any animals are removed from the area, she said.

Fournier said John Kanter, supervisor in the Nongame Program at Fish and Game, had in­structed the town to stop installing a silt fence last week, but the DPW pro­ceeded anyway.

Kanter also asked the town not to do any logging on Sept. 30 because no bi­ologist was on-site, "but DPW logged all day Fri­day and then again Mon­day," Fournier said.

Kanter wasn’t available for comment at presstime.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.