ORLEANS — The “air” B&B over Cedar Pond enjoyed by roosting cormorants for decades is no more.
“As of yesterday, I witnessed that all wires, including the communication wire, are now down from spanning Cedar Pond,” Conservation Agent John Jannell told the conservation commission Tuesday. Some members applauded, with Judith Bruce asking that town counsel “convey our thanks” to Eversource.
It was a high point in relations between the utility and town hall over an issue that stretches back many years. Complaints about the birds roosting and dropping waste into the water body led to all sorts of countermeasures, the most dramatic being authorizing a retired Episcopal priest to fire a shotgun at sunset to frighten off the birds. Nothing worked.
What did work, eventually, was a court case that led to an agreement under which Eversource would relocate its distribution lines to poles on Locust and Rock Harbor roads.
In June 2017, the commission and the board of selectmen accepted an agreement for judgment in which the utility promised to relocate the 25kW distribution lines to nearby streets by the end of 2018. At the time, Town Counsel Michael Ford said the agreement laid out the facts in the Second District Court case, including the commission's enforcement order stating that Eversource was violating the local wetlands bylaw by failing to prevent roosting over the pond. After months of legal skirmishing, the utility filed the plan to move the lines.
Eversource agreed to pay for all removal and rerouting of the distribution and communication lines but stated it had no intention to remove transmission lines, which carry a higher voltage. Should the birds move to those lines, Ford said in 2017, the conservation commission's right to issue further enforcement orders – and the utility's right to contest them – are protected.
At an earlier conservation commission meeting in 2017, there was opposition from some residents regarding relocation of the lines. Steve Shervanian of Locust Road said the plan would “industrialize the aesthetics” of his neighborhood. If the cormorants moved with the lines, he said, “the guano dropped on Cedar Pond will be dropped on my and my neighbors' homes.” He called on Eversource to bury the lines, and said the cost differential was not large.
At that meeting, attorney Alex Rodolakis, external counsel for Eversource, said the utility had determined burying the lines under Cedar Pond would be cost-prohibitive and was a non-starter with the state department of environmental protection, which disfavors dredging that may disturb such ecosytems. There were “a lot of issues,” he said, in attempting to string the lines over or along Route 6, and other locations had significant wetlands issues.
At this week's commission meeting, Jannell recommended waiting for town counsel's final report before taking a vote to close the court case. “What I need before final action,” chairman Mike Brink said, “is a letter from Eversource saying that everything we agreed to is done: the wires are down, the poles are down. I would wait until we get that, then put it on the agenda.”
Mention of the poles, most of which have been removed, prompted a comment from Bruce to Jannell. “Did you reiterate that we're perfectly happy to leave at least one pole up and add an osprey nest? It's not part of the deal, but it's a lot of work to take a pole down.”