On January 28, 2022 TRWA sent a letter to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) requesting that a permit not be issued for a large private pier and dock off the southweastern tip of Assonet Neck adjacent to Conspiracy Island and between two salt marsh areas on either side. A copy of TRWA’s letter may be found at this link.
Several Berkley residents contacted TRWA expressing their concern that two treasured town icons Assonet Neck and Conspiracy Island which generations of local canoeists, kayakers, fishermen and photographers have enjoyed were being sacrificed for a 170 foot long private dock. In its letter TRWA expressed concern that this project at such a visible and historically significant location is inconsistent with the federal Wild and Scenic designation of the Taunton River. The project is in a vulnerable location facing down estuary at the confluence of the Taunton and Assonet Rivers requiring a large amount of dredging and dredge spoil disposal for foundation support structures. Use of existing dock facilities or construction upriver in an already developed and more sheltered area with no adjacent salt marshes was not considered.
Some of the other issues raised in TRWA’s letter are:
- The project will cause erosion and adverse effects to adjacent salt marshes (the artificial bank on each side of the dock will erode and transfer energy to natural features including the adjacent salt marshes and Conspiracy Island). The increase in boat wakes in the area will damage the adjacent salt marshes and the island.
- The area is habitat for federal and state endangered and threatened species including sturgeon, diamond back terrapin (a threatened turtle species) and eagles. TRWA has just complete its sixth year of studying the northern diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) which inhabits the area proposed for the project.
- The Narragansett Bay Estuary Project and EPA in Clean Water Act permit fact sheets has described this location in the estuary as a very sensitive and productive area.
- The last comprehensive MassDEP sponsored study of Mount Hope Bay and the Taunton River estuary cited this location as having excessive loading of nitrogen resulting in algae blooms and low dissolved oxygen. The project will exacerbate this problem due to fuel and fluid leaks from parked vehicles and watercraft.
- The project will present a safety risk to kayakers from increased motorized boat traffic in the area.
- Climate change/sea level rise, increasing frequency of severe storms, flood plain and velocity zone considerations do not appear to be adequately factored into the project.
- Residents raised concerns to TRWA about harm to the Town’s cultural, historical and archeological heritage.
- Residents raised traffic safety concerns because of narrow roads and a sharp curve at the location of the project entrance.
Anyone who would like to submit comments on this project should send them to MassDEP at the address contained in TRWA’s comment letter postmarked by the close of the comment period which is Saturday, February 5, 2022.