TOWN OF ARLINGTON VISION 2020 ENVIRONMENT TASK GROUP
RESERVOIR COMMITTEE
November 8, 2000  Meeting Notes


In attendance: Gene Benson, Rich Bento, Ralph Elwell, Margaret Fitzgerald, Cathy Garnett, Bryan Hasbrouck, Jane Howard, Elizabeth Karpati, Leslie Mayer, Sharon Stafford, Susan Wheelock, David White. 

The meeting was facilitated by Gene Benson. The minutes are by Elizabeth Karpati.

Report from walk around Reservoir, Saturday, Nov. 7 (Brian Hasbrouck):
The former stump dump has largely been cleared, though there are several piles left (including one consisting of the water chestnuts that were raked off the Arlington half of the Res). 
Earth has been moved around in some places. Some seems to have been pushed toward Mill Brook, making the slope very steep in places. Some has been scraped away from trees at the top of the Mill Brook slope, exposing roots that had grown sideways from trunks into soil piles.
More of the dam than shown on the map from the last meeting seems to be wide enough to be safe. Also one part of the area marked for cutting the trees seems to be not a dam but part of solid ground. 
A small part of the marked area may be in Lexington; the playground and part of the swimming area are also in Lexington.
There is an access road to the top of the dam from Drake Village, near the outflow, controlled by a locked gate. It could perhaps be used by DPW and the present access blocked to keep unauthorized vehicles out - if the bridge (culvert) over Cataldo brook is strong enough for DPW vehicles.

Rich Bento's plans: 
Have consultant examine the dam (take borings) for well compacted vs. loosely dumped soil to see which parts of the dam really have enough solid width to be safe even with trees left standing. Construction plans for the dam have not been found but the original width was probably uniform. 
Bento wants a base map showing the actual dam and all the trees on it, plus a topographic map with contour lines. Then negotiate with the consultant about which trees really have to go.
Cleared areas will be landscaped, perhaps with shallow-rooted plants like rhododendrons.
Drainage problem in stump dump area: thick organic layer which is slow to dry out, has long-lasting puddles. Bento will ask ConCom for OK to remove this layer and replace it with sand from cemetery.
Dam has riprap on reservoir side; can't see from thick vegetation whether there is riprap on Mill Brook side. Perhaps Mill Brook was wider originally but got partly filled in when dam was built or by material pushed over from stump dump.

Discussion:
"Decommissioning" means making it impossible to use the Res for water storage. Getting permits for this would take 4 to 5 years.
Fixing the Res dam won't fix the Mill Brook flooding problem, but decommissioning it would make the flooding worse by making it impossible to impound storm water from Monroe Brook temporarily.
Now impounding capacity exists for about 10 months of the year. When Res is at high level or if storm is really big (e.g. June 1998), DPW has to let out some water to keep dam from overtopping.
There are many interagency issues involved, e.g. Parks & Rec for swimming; ConCom for plantings to replace trees; DPW for construction. There are also questions of parking and access, and light pollution from Drake Village if trees come down.

Timeframe and next steps:
Bento distributed copies of his memo to the new Town Manager summarizing the Reservoir situation.
The Town has not yet responded to the Commonwealth about what we plan to do. (We are still hoping to get a waiver from DEM allowing planning for a 500-year storm rather than PMS.)
Bento wants to do dam repairs in 2002 from budget funded in 2001. Projected: $300,000.
Weston & Sampson is proposing a detailed survey for $60,000, which can be funded from the water & sewer enterprise fund (which comes from water & sewer rates). But that fund can't be used for work on swimming area; Bento will try to get a ballpark estimate of the cost of a beach study from W & S.
Bento sees the need to preserve the beach as a given. After getting the dam structure stabilized (while still allowing swimming in 2002) he wants to isolate the swimming area so that it is independent of the water level in the Res. This would probably be done in 2003 from budget funded in 2002.
Funding for restoration of habitat if trees are cut needs also to be included in budget for that year; should be mentioned in Bento's report to Town Manager.
Bento can't attend our next meeting (11/27) but will give us a tentative timeline by then (tentative because it will depend on funding).

The Swimming Issue:
There has not been a Town-wide study of the need for swimming facilities, except for the Census mailing survey. Susan Wheelock presented some comparative figures for Arlington and Lexington: Population about 45,000 vs. 31,500. Swim tags issued: 1963 vs. 6,200. Seasonal usage: 22,529 vs. 103,484 including the Lexington pool [but not our Boys' & Girls' Club]. I.e., a far smaller percentage of Arlington people are swimming - why? 
Should we pour a lot of money into the swimming area at the Res without considering the possible need for a pool? But if we tried to do a study of that now, it would slow us down for years. Now we must deal with the public safety issue posed by the trees on the dam and try to save as much habitat as possible and what swimming facilities we have, before getting involved in trying to get more/better facilities. But Bento will raise the question of a pool with Parks & Rec at their next meeting, Dec. 7.
Leslie Mayer distributed a set of graphs summarizing responses to the Res survey in the 2000 census mailing. Some highlights: Among respondents, users outnumber nonusers by more than 2:1; more than 3 in 4 want to continue swimming (and only about 1 in 4 of those who want to discontinue it said they wanted a pool instead). Among non-users, 312 checked "continue swimming," and for 144 of them this was the only response they checked.
Census mailing 2001 should include a summary of survey results, probably as a graphic.
Mt. Gilboa Association got a $20,000 grant to study Res - apparently not used yet. Susan will check with Chick Abbott where this stands.

Informing the Public:
Timetable will have to depend on when we get enough information to pass along.
Gene Benson had a call already from the Arlington Advocate. It is too early for an article now but they want to be kept informed.
Leslie has a list of some 75 to 100 people, e.g. those who signed up on Town Day, who want to be kept informed about what is happening to the Res.
Public meeting: Probably after the next Weston & Sampson study, which should take about 3 months. The meeting could then be held in February. (Note: there is a possibility of a special Town Meeting in March -- avoid interference.) Involve Parks & Rec and Open Space Committee; invite people from Lexington such as ConCom. Possible joint hearing by Arlington and Lexington ConComs?
Pre-announce the meeting in the 2001 census mailing - give approximate date; maybe say something to reassure people so that they won't think they are about to lose all the trees and the swimming area.
Will have to make it clear to people in Colonial Village that solving the dam problems won't solve their flooding problems.

 

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