Wareham MA: Town to hire expert to independently audit Makepeace’s sand mining operations

Pine Barrens forests, wildlife and wetland have been obliterated by AD Makepeace’s deforestation and sand mining operations

Forests and sand protect and filter the Plymouth Sole Source Drinking Water Aquifer.

In Wareham, Makepeace has been extracting valuable sand without an Earth Removal Permit or proven exemption. Voters want to know where the sand went — to the company’s “agricultural projects” as claimed — or to its industrial sand mining company, Read Custom Soils and to other third-party buyers?

Wareham Town Meeting Warrant Article 18 urged the Board of Selectmen to hold Makepeace accountable for sand mining without a permit

BREAKING: Jan. 4, 2022: Wareham Board of Selectmen votes 4-1 to hire an expert to audit volume of sand AD Makepeace has mined without permits and if any fees and penalties are owed.

Read the Jan. 4, 2022 news from Wareham Week here.

When one selectman complained that seeking to enforce the bylaw was a “slippery slope” Cosgrove commented:

“If fulfilling a legal obligation under bylaw and respecting the will of the people is a slippery slope, what is the metaphor for ignoring a legal obligation and ignoring the will of the people?”

Wareham Week reported, “Cosgrove said the petition article — which voters supported — was “an unambiguous complaint” to the town about possible earth removal bylaw violations. “

The Courier-Sentinel reported December 30, 2021 on the Board’s vote of 4-1 on December 14, 2021 “to authorize hiring an engineer for the task” of “providing an expert opinion” on whether or not Makepeace took sand from the Town without a required permit or not.

Read the article here:

Expert opinion could quell earth removal ‘innuendo’ in Wareham

Background on sand mining in Wareham

In October, 2021 Town Meeting Wareham voters overwhelmingly passed Warrant Article 18 urging the Board of Selectmen to require AD Makepeace to account for all the sand removed from the town under the guise of agriculture — and possibly without the Earth Removal Permits required by the Town General Bylaw. The Earth Removal Permit would have required Makepeace to pay the Town 25 cents per cubic yard of earth removed and enormous penalties – potentially in the millions – if it cheated the permit system.

Wareham General Bylaw, Earth Removal Regulations. Section 4

In 2021, then Chair of the Board of Selectmen Peter Teitelbaum wrote in a letter responding to a Public Records Request there was no earth removal permit for Makepeace’s 160 Tihonet Road earth removal operation and later confirmed that no earth removal permits had been granted by the Board of Selectmen for any Makepeace operation.

If Makepeace fails to prove that it did not unlawfully evade the Earth Removal Permit requirements for “agricultural projects” Makepeace may have deprived the Town of potential revenue. Makepeace has claimed time and again that earth removed from Wareham is for its “agricultural operations” such as building, refurbishing and winter sanding its own cranberry bogs. Makepeace is finally being forced verify by credible evidence where all the sand really went — to bogs or out of town via all the trucks seen up and down the roads heading to its industrial sand mining operations and mixing facilities in Carver and Westford or to to third party buyers via the interstate highways?

Makepeace will necessarily also have to account for all the sand it has removed in abutting towns like Plymouth and Carver, since it has frequently claimed sand taken from those towns was also use on the same cranberry bogs and supposedly subject to agricultural immunity. In other words, the region-wide math does not add up. Nor do the Makepeace claims that the mining operations are “necessary” to build new agricultural projects.

Here’s what the voters’ October Town Meeting Warrant Article says:

Article 18, Wareham Town Meeting, Fall 2021

Makepeace mining sites subject to investigation

160 Tihonet Road, Wareham

Now 50 acre “Tihonet East” solar site sold by Borrego to Clearway Solar

In 2014, ADM applied to the Wareham Planning Board for site plan review to install Phase 1 of a 52 acre ground mounted solar project to be built by Borrego Solar.  Jim Kane wrote to the Planning Board Chair George Barrett this was likely Makepeace’s “last large ground mounted solar project under the exisiting regulatory system” — which was a spin since of course Makepeace has built more under the “new” regulatory system – taking advantage of the state’s “SMART” solar subsidies at locations such as 0 Hammond Street, Golden Field, 276 Federal Road and Swan Holt Bogs (0 Pond Street) in Carver and is proposing 3 new projects at 140 Tihonet Road, 150 Tihonet Road and 27 Charge Pond Road — about 200 acres of pristine forest will be obliterated and wetlands impacted.

Kane described the Tihonet East solar as a “cookie cutter” solar project:

March 10, 2014 Letter from Makepeace CEO Jim Kane to Wareham Planning Board

In 2014, Makepeace told the state environmental review office, Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) “The site will be cleared and graded to a level area ranging from approximately 64’ to 68’ above sea level” and MEPA repeated this in its MEPA Certificate. Makepeace’s consultant Beals + Thomas said in the MEPA Environmental Notification Form: it is “anticipated that excavated earth material will be used in the vicinity of the site such that travel via town roads will be avoided.” Did the earth material go to Makepeace’s nearby Read Custom Soils for commercial sale? Makepeace uses back roads through its cranberry lands to transport sand from mining sites to Read, as implied by Beals + Thomas. MEPA never required an adequate evaluation of the impacts of the removal of a vast amount of topsoil and sand the aquifer, biodiversity or forest and soil carbon sequestration from this “green” energy project.

Between 2014 and 2018, approximately 22 acres of the 52 acre site were cleared and the first phase of the Borrego solar project installed in approximately 2015.

The 160 Tihonet Road location was once “Priority Mapped Habitat” designated under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. In 2015, Mass Wildlife, which is supposed to protect our wildlife and rare natural plant and animal communities gave Makepeace a permit to kill 10 Pine Barrens species protected by law under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act (MESA). This included the endangered Northern Barrens Tiger Beetle.

The MassWildlife issued the permit through its Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP). The permit to kill, or “take” the species is ironically called a “Conservation and Management Permit”. There is supposed to be “mitigation” when this happens but how can a species be conserved and “managed” when large swarths of its habitat is destroyed? What is the cumulative impact of all the deforestation by Makepeace and other solar and sand mining operations in the Pine Barrens?

Here is an excerpt from the 2015 NHESP permit for Makepeace to “take” 10 legally protected species so it could say it was strip mining 50 acres “in compliance with the state endangered species law.”

Oct. 23, 2021 Google Earth Image 160 Tihonet Road, Wareham MA

71 Charlotte Furnace Road

This is a 42 acre site where forest was cleared and earth removed. Before earth removal the topography was about 71 feet; after it is about 60 feet. On November 25, 2018, the Wareham Town Engineer reported to the Wareham Planning Board“the site is in a previously worked area that has been extensively cleared for other operations” and Planning Board Site Plan Review application from ADM states the site is in a previously worked area that has been extensively cleared “for other operations”. The only other operations on the site have been earth removal.

Makepeace Charlotte Furnace earth removal and solar site 2009
Makepeace Charlotte Furnace Solar Site, October 2021
Makepeace Charlotte Furnace Solar Site, overlain with prior topography

64, 77 and 299 Farm to Market Road

What happened for earth removal at these three sites needs a thorough investigation and accountability from local and state regulators. Between 2010 and 2021, it appears that Makepeace conducted an earth removal operation in the areas known as numbers 64, 77 and 299 Farm to Market Road. State regulatory documents are unclear and are inconsistent with maps and site plan review documents from the Wareham Planning Board.

The site appears to be between 11 and 23 acres. Before earth removal, it appears topography before was about 69 feet and after about 54-64 feet

Makepeace submitted an Environmental Notification Form to the state MEPA office in 2019. The state’s MEPA Certificate 13940, p. 2, May 2, 2019 states,

The “area of work [for installation of a solar project] is largely cleared and previously disturbed.”

“The site was formerly used for sand mining, which cleared the site of vegetation….Because sand mining is ongoing, site grades fluctuate; final grades will range from 54 ft to 64 ft NAVD.” 

Makepeace earth removal and Solar Site, 64 Farm to Market, may also be known as 299 Farm to Market Road

Makepeace and Borrego Solar Project, Farm to Market Road, Wareham, 2021

Where did the sand go?

On the Trucks leaving Read Custom Soils or on Makepeace’s cranberry bogs?

Makepeace Read Custom Soils sand marketing and sales facility, Federal Road, Carver MA
Map of some Makepeace earth removal and solar sites, Wareham, Carver and Plymouth MA, December 2021