State Appeals Court: Mattapoisett homeowner must restore damaged wetlands on Eel Pond

In a May 1 decision, the Massachusetts Appeals Court validated the Mattapoisett Conservation Commission’s 2015 enforcement order requiring that Daniel Craig of Seabreeze Lane restore nearly a half-acre of filled wetland and buffer zone along Eel Pond, one of Buzzards Bay’s most delicate coastal salt ponds.

houses on Eel Pond in Mattapoisett

Eel Pond in Mattapoisett is one of Buzzards Bay’s most delicate coastal salt ponds.

The court ruled that the property – which had been filled and altered into residential lawn – must be restored to its original condition.

“The Coalition applauds the hard work and vigilance of the Mattapoisett Conservation Commission, Board of Selectmen, Town Administrator and Finance Committee – all of whom played a role in supporting this case,” said Korrin Petersen, senior attorney for the Buzzards Bay Coalition. “Their leadership on this particularly egregious violation has spanned many years and has been truly commendable.”

In early 2015, the Buzzards Bay Coalition notified the Commission of potential violations of the state wetlands protection act along Eel Pond. Google Earth images revealed new filled lawn and garden structures in areas previously shown as wetlands and associated wetland buffer. The Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program, a unit of the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management, provided satellite image analysis to further prove the extent and timeline for these unauthorized alterations.

When Seabreeze Lane was originally developed in 2000, specific protections were placed on the property to mitigate construction impacts on the pond’s health and habitats. The aerial images, combined with the Coalition’s review of compliance with these protections, revealed that significant state wetlands protection act violations had occurred.

The Mattapoisett Conservation Commission took prompt action and requested that the homeowner meet to resolve the matter. However, after nearly a year of negotiations with the Commission, the homeowner withdrew from the conversation and left the Commission with no choice but to issue an enforcement order to compel compliance with the law. Refusing to restore the property, the homeowner sued the Commission in court. The Coalition, together with 12 citizens from Mattapoisett, intervened in that lawsuit to help defend the Commission’s decision. The Court ruled against the homeowner, affirming the Commission’s valid enforcement order. Still refusing to comply with the enforcement order, the homeowner appealed the Superior Court’s decision to the Appeals Court, which issued a decisive victory to the Commission this Tuesday, upholding the Superior Court’s decision and requiring the homeowner to restore the property.

“The Coalition is proud to support the good decisions of local conservation commissions to protect the Bay’s most sensitive wetlands. Nearly a half-acre of wetland and coastal buffer destruction on one property is thankfully very rare in Bay towns these days. We are extremely grateful to the Mattapoisett Conservation Commission for not allowing that kind of violation to stand here,” said Coalition President Mark Rasmussen. “We will continue to track wetlands violations across the Bay region and work with local commissions to ensure that the law is enforced.” The Coalition will also continue to track progress towards the full restoration of these wetlands and buffer zone on Eel Pond.

The Coalition, together with the 12 Mattapoisett citizens, is represented pro bono by the law firm Goodwin in this matter.

Category: On the Bay

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Working to Save Buzzards Bay

The Buzzards Bay Coalition is a membership-supported organization dedicated to improving the health of the Buzzards Bay ecosystem for all through education, conservation, research, and advocacy.

We work to protect clean water on the Bay and on the land: