Cohasset’s Cat Dam – another greedy real estate ruse

The Town of Hull, Massachusetts situated its high school on one of the most impossible sites in the town – Hull Gut – at the very end of town. Why? Rumors are a selectman wanted to sell the property, which wasn’t getting a lot of attention in the real estate market of the time. There were other sites, better sites. But the Town of Hull chose to build the school at Hull Gut – on a site that gets the full impact of every Nor’easter. Everyone knows schools best serve students and teachers when they are centrally located.

Something similar happened at Little Inner Harbor (LIH). In the 1700-1800s it was farmland and then a storm came by and turned it into a salt marsh, which is why old deeds still show property owners owning land under the water. After the site-altering storm, the farmers grew salt hay and put up a little dam so they could drain Little Inner Harbor and cut the hay.

In 1882 (page 532, Bigelow’s Narrative History Of The Town Of Cohasset) we get a glimpse of Cat Dam as an early Disneyworld. A road along the harbor islands (Nichols Avenue) was created to attract rich summer sojourners. The land in question was a marsh, and marshes have odors – even without people living on them. The town fathers wanted more money, as town fathers do, and so they entered into a partnership with the landowner to build a fantasy place. These very wealthy people would never have to experience a tide or see a mudflat, because their “marshpool” would always be full of water.  Their cesspools emptied directly into the marsh, and so there is some debate about which came first, Disneymarsh or people needing to keep water in the marshpool because they couldn’t stand the sight and smell of their own poo.

The Conservation Commission (CC) held a public hearing on Cat Dam last night. It was continued to March 10.

Selectmen Fred Koed presented the Notice of Intent for the majority of the board of selectmen and the majority of LIH residents.  Cat Dam is considered to be a town asset but the majority of the board of selectmen decided to endorse engineering studies done by a self-styled group called The Environmental 20 (E-20) because they wish to maintain “local control” over LIH.

CC member Ed Graham questioned the Selectman Koed about the strange composition of the advisory committee – which seemed to be lopsided with the majority of members  from the E-20 (“keep the marshpool ful”). Koed said not to worry, this committee would be advisory only, and regulatory boards would still have their say under state and federal statute.  So the question is – is the Cat Dam advisory committee just a feel-good committee?  Are selectmen just vote-gathering?

CC member Debbie Cook wondered who’s  paying for all of the engineering to date. Koed said the E-20. If additional money should be needed selectmen would go to the advisory committee. When asked after the meeting if Koed would be presenting a project budget for all of the items mentioned: repair or replacement of Cat Dam, erosion control, etc., he said no, that this was not that expensive and that residents were willing to pay the bulk of the costs. However, Cat Dam residents, rolling their eyes back into their heads, say they had already paid quite a bit of money for engineering studies and a lawyer.  (Note that this is the very same Precinct 1 group, who years ago said they would be happy to pay for sewage themselves, and then did a turn-about 10 years later, wanting the Town to pay half.)

CC Chairman David Farrag wondered how the very small changes the E-20 was recommending (flushing more in the winter, when the pool need not be full for aesthetic reasons and less in the summer) would improve water quality. They said they did not know if it would.  The consultant said he did not know if it would but when  pressed, the consultant say he doubted that it could.

Resident Margie Brown noted that the increased flushing the E-20 proposes does not happen during the growing season when algae are in full bloom. It takes place in December, January and March.

Paul Shea, the Town’s Conservation Agent, said: “Even after all of LIH is on sewage, the ground will continue to leach septic into the marsh. It could be more then 10 years before you see sewage have an impact on water quality.”  Shea pressed the E-20 to offer the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) more than one proposal – “less or more drastic.” He told this writer that if their only proposal were not accepted by the DEP they would have to reapply.

Dr. Edward Woods said the group should honor “the bylaws of Nature” and forget Cat Dam completely. “This effort is going to produce enormous administration, a very fun thing, meeting upon meeting upon meeting. The whole idea is ridiculous. We ought to create a study committee to deal with the Bow Street Marsh,. The water’s going in and out by itself twice a day. My gosh!”

© Copyright 2011 Tanna K, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed