Dig safe: Chatham, Plum Island, and environmental laws

Yet another case is showing that there is little tolerance on Cape Cod for those who skirt environmental regulations. The question is whether the hard line taken there by local and state officials will make its way north to Plum Island, where enforcement of environmental laws has been notably more lax.

Attorney General Maura Healey and David C. Rogers, who owns property in the Cape Cod town of Chatham, reached an agreement that has Rogers paying nearly $200,000 for damage caused by construction equipment to 2,000 square feet of salt marsh lands along the shoreline and to neighboring properties.

Rogers had received permission to tear down one home and build another, along with a boathouse and a swimming pool, but he did not adhere to state and local regulations. He added to his problems by abandoning a 9,000 pound front-end loader when it got stuck in the mud. The area had to be closed off to shellfishing for a month.

“I would say it’s an egregious violation,” Chatham conservation agent Kristin Andres told the Cape Codder last year. “It’s not a whoops,” she said. “There is no ignorance here.”

Under the agreement, Rogers will spend up to $220,000 to restore the salt marsh, dune, and coastal bank. Since he agreed to work with the Department of Environmental Protection and the town on a restoration plan, $50,000 of a $140,000 penalty will be waived as long as DEP is satisfied with the work. He also has to pay for a $40,000 town of Chatham-designated coastal wetlands enhancement project.

“Our shared coastal areas provide important environmental resources and must be safeguarded,” Healey said in a statement about the settlement. “Our office will continue to work to enforce environmental laws and protect valuable coastal wetlands.”

Meanwhile, on Boston’s North Shore, Plum Island, which is split between the town of Newbury and the city of Newburyport, has had ongoing issues with property owners who have taken matters into their own hands to protect their homes against natural forces. Some Newbury residents built rock walls when 2013 nor’easters threatened homes in the area. The DEP sanctioned those emergency measures.

But those hastily constructed walls are causing problems. The Daily News of Newburyport reported that the walls haven’t held, and some rocks are now scattered around the beach at the low tide mark. Nothing is being done about the beach hazards, according to Mike Morris of Storm Surge, a local environmental education group. He has filed a complaint with the DEP.

If state environmental officials are considering new enforcement strategies more consistent with their actions on the Cape, they aren’t in any hurry to tip their hand. DEP declined to answer a Daily News reporter’s questions about possible moves against Plum Island homeowners.

Historically, Cape Cod towns have had low tolerance for homeowners who violate environmental regulations. Chatham acted quickly and DEP backed them up. Plum Island plays by a different set of rules. Newbury and DEP have effectively sanctioned the Plum Island homeowners’ do-it-yourself projects, including ongoing ones not prompted by storm-related emergencies, by not launching any major enforcement actions to date.

The distinction may lie in overzealous construction versus storm protection measures. But it may be difficult for the state to continue to tolerate one set of behaviors on the North Shore and another set on the Cape without more clarity on exceptions to long-standing environmental regulations.

–GABRIELLE GURLEY

 

BEACON HILL

A coalition of liberal groups plans to push for a constitutional amendment to be put on the statewide ballot that would create a higher state income tax rate for those earning more than $1 million per year. (Boston Globe)

Massachusetts lawmakers are considering legislation that would purchase seafront homes subject to repeated storm damage. (Eagle-Tribune)

Secretary of State William Galvin joins the chorus of voices pushing for changes in the Public Records Law. (Greater Boston)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Country Club in Brookline is selected as the site for the US Open in 2022. (Associated Press)

The Eagle-Tribune, in an editorial, pans the idea of making Lawrence a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants.

A new study suggests the population of Salem will grow by 3,700 people, or 9 percent, over the next 15 years, requiring an increase in housing of 10 to 15 percent. (Salem News)

OLYMPICS

Pollster Steve Koczela: Four things to watch for in tonight’s high-stakes Olympics debate. (CommonWealth)

Boston 2024 announces, on the eve of tonight’s debate with Olympic opponents, more details of its plans for insurance coverage against various cost risks. (Boston Globe)

The Herald says there has been little traffic planning related to the Olympics, which it says could result in gridlock with the inclusion of special “VIP lanes” reserved for Olympic bigwigs.

A simple yes-or-no statewide referendum on a Boston Olympics may not be that easy to put on the 2016 ballot. (Boston Globe)

Under pressure from Boston city councilors, led by Tito Jackson, Boston 2024 reverses course and says it will release the full, unredacted initial proposal it submitted to the US Olympic Committee. (Boston Globe)

Raising eyebrows: The head of Boston’s office of Olympic planning, who is serving as the city’s watchdog on Boston 2024 plans, is being paid by Boston 2024 via reimbursements the private group is making to the city for her work. (Boston Herald)

A Herald editorial says No Boston Olympics should release information on all its donors, even though the amounts are piddling and the group is clearly “David to Boston 2024’s Goliath.”

CASINOS

KG Urban Enterprises pulls the plug on its plan to build a casino in New Bedford. The company said it couldn’t put together the financing, in part because of fears a Native American casino would open nearby. (WBUR)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

A New York Times editorial examines the progress of Mayor Bill de Blasio in making New York a welcoming city for people at all income levels.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

New York plans a $15-an-hour minimum wage for fast food workers. (New York Times)

HEALTH CARE

As drug prices soar, a chorus of voices are rising to demand justification for the high cost. (New York Times)

TRANSPORTATION

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio backs off his plan to cap the number of Uber vehicles in New York City, agreeing to study the issue for four months. (New York Times)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The Gloucester-based Ocean Alliance enlists actor Patrick Stewart to help raise money for its snotbot, which can gather biological data on whales from the fluids emitted from their blowholes. (Gloucester Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

The bipartisan nature of the push for criminal justice reform is illustrated by the days-apart speeches of President Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. (Governing)

CommonWealth’s new summer issue cover story looks at the criminal justice reform push in Massachusetts.

Seven former staffers at an agency contracted by the state to run a facility for those under Department of Youth Services detention are facing charges related to alleged abuse of detainees. (Boston Globe)

MEDIA

NPR looks at the diversity of the sources it uses in news stories, and finds they are mostly white and male. (NPR) The Columbia Journalism Review examines the paucity of minorities in newsroom jobs.

Time gives a teaser of its “Game of Thrones” interview with Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.