NStar contractor oversteps clearing scope; treasured Wellfleet blueberry patch lost
John Connors, whose property off Old Long Pond Road in Wellfleet includes some land within the NStar powerlines right-of-way, was appalled when he heard the noise of a huge Caterpillar tractor last Thursday afternoon. He went out and found the tractor operator had torn up the traditional sand road that runs along the powerlines, and had dug up a portion of the land he owns, about a quarter of an acre, on which blueberry bushes have grown for generations.
Connors went out and asked the driver to stop what he was doing and call for his supervisor to come to the site.
The work stopped, and when Fred Slade, project manager for NStar arrived, he determined that the contractor doing the job for NStar had not complied with the specifications he’d been given for the job.
Connors, whose property abuts the National Seashore, alerted his neighbors Thursday night, and started making phone calls.
By Friday, Lauren McKean, National Seashore planner and the newest member of the town’s conservation commission, was at the scene, along with Bob Cook, the Seashore’s ecologist and turtle expert who said the work done by NStar was “overkill.”
McKean agreed the work done by NStar “seemed to be more extensive than necessary.” NStar was talking about regrading a 15-foot-wide road.
By Tuesday, Mike Durand, spokesman for NStar, said, “We are working toward a resolution that we believe is going to be acceptable to the residents, to the Seashore and to our company.
He said the contractor, Lawrence Lynch, “in some cases overstepped the scope of swath we had intended them to do. He overstepped the scope of what we expected him to do in a few areas of concern to us, to the Seashore and to the residents.”
Slade, again at the scene Friday, assured the gathering of residents and officials that “he would get back to them” with some options, Connors told the Banner.
Connors, who left town for Boston Tuesday morning, said Slade called him just before he left. “He told me he planned to meet with his environmental people and they had plans to shut down that whole road and cancel this project between Long Pond and Old Long Pond roads,” Connors said. “They would cancel it, put loam over it and plant it with blueberry bushes. That would be a wonderful resolution,” he said. “Let’s just hope they follow through with it.”
Dennis Cunningham, one of the residents disturbed by the road work, said he is “disgusted” by NStar’s turning what once was “a very simple road,” into one that is 20 feet wide in places, and bulldozing an area about 100 feet wide.
The open area, once filled with low-lying blueberry bushes, was torn up completely. NStar’s plan was to use it as a staging area for vehicles to get to the powerlines.
It’s all gone now,” Cunningham said. “For generations kids have been coming down here in the summer to pick the blueberries. This is really incredible what they have done.”
Durand said it is “critical to electric reliability” for NStar to have access to the rights of way by road when they need to get to the powerlines.”
Of course we understand right-of-way,” Connors said. “But we don’t believe they have the right to do that kind of destruction, and I’m glad that NStar agrees with us verbally. Let’s hope they follow through.”
Cunningham said some people, including NStar, might view the powerlines area as an eyesore. But not the residents, who are now concerned that the damage done by NStar will prevent box turtles from reaching their habitat and will create runoff.
“Everybody is upset about this,” Connors said. “We love the powerlines. We have deer, red-tailed hawk, falcons, all kinds of creatures there. We love it and think of it as a meadow. It is a beautiful piece of the landscape and we are terribly upset that these people have the arrogance to treat it that way.”
“There’s a balance we can strike and that’s what we’re working for,” Durand said. “The contractor overstepped the scope of the job, and we’ll do what we can to rectify that while still maintaining the roads we need to travel on.”