Wareham: 50 acres of deforestation & strip mine for land based solar at 160 Tihonet Road

Where did all the sand and gravel go? Where did all the endangered species go?

Photo: Makepeace/Borrego/Clearway solar site known as “Tihonet East” or 160 Tihonet Road, Wareham, Massachusetts, 2018.

Breaking: July 3, 2021: Wareham Board of Selectmen asked to make AD Makepeace account for the missing sand at 160 Tihonet Road, Wareham. Why no earth removal permit? A massive amount – 2 to 4 million cubic yards has gone missing. Read a local residents letter below. The resident writes:

“Please openly insist that AD Makepeace keeps its word to publicly account for its earth removal in Wareham.  Better yet, immediately engage an independent forensic auditing firm to do the job at Makepeace’s expense.  It is bad enough our Pot Shop has a better reputation than our school system.  Continuing to stick your heads in our enormous but rapidly depleting reserves of sand, on all matters Makepeace, is just as embarrassing.”

This site was once what is called “Priority Mapped Habitat” under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. It was a 50 acre globally rare Pine Barrens ecosystem.

State and local regulators sanctioned the destruction of this pristine habitat by AD Makepeace. First, Makepeace leveled the site, taking down one of the highest hills around. This entailed clear-cutting and ripping up soils that had been there for thousands of years and all the rich biota in that soil and releasing a sudden pulse of carbon to the atmosphere. Then, pulling up stumps and grinding them, probably along with the trees to be sold for wooding burning biomass incinerators disguised as clean energy.

Then, Makepeace and Borrego got ratepayer and taxpayer subsidies to build a 50 acre land based solar project on this once pristine site next to Frogfoot Reservoir, considered a biological hotspot according to the state Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP). And near Harlow Brook. Now what? The upland used by the species is gone.

In 2015, NHESP and MassWildlife issued Makepeace a permit to kill 10 pine barrens species that are protected by law under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. This included the endangered Northern Barrens Tiger Beetle. The NHESP permit is ironically called a “Conservation and Management Permit” — it is actually a permit to “take” — or kill — the listed species. 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?

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.”

Permit:

The state’s GIS system has data layers to look up various habitat types on BioMap2 – such as critical core habitat. Take a look, zoom in and learn about the Pine Barrens ecosystem! http://maps.massgis.state.ma.us/map_ol/oliver.php

Tihonet East Solar site: after removal of forest and topsoil.

AD Makepeace mined the 160 Tihonet Road site illegally without an Earth Removal Permit from the Wareham Board of Selectmen. The Town does not deny that a permit was needed under the Town’s Earth Removal Bylaw. On March 9, 2021, the Board confirmed in writing that no permit was issued. There has been no explanation of why Makepeace didn’t apply for and obtain the permit.

This deprived the Town of hundreds of thousands of dollars in earth removal fees that are required under the Bylaw. The Board has also confirmed that no Earth Removal Permits were issued for any Makepeace earth removal activities in Wareham. There has been no explanation of why not. One report is that AD Makepeace had a “handshake deal” with the Town to do earth removal without permits. How much revenue has this cost the Town of Wareham?

Why isn’t AD Makepeace playing by the rules?

The Tihonet East Solar site is located near Makepeace’s aggregate mining facility, Read Custom Soils. http://www.readcustomsoils.com. Read sells sand and specialty soils throughout the region.

In 2016, Makepeace received a permit from the Town of Plymouth to extract 6.5 million cubic yards of sand and gravel just north of the 160 Tihonet Road solar site. This site is shown on the map below marked “Wankinko Reservoir”. Makepeace’s permit application to the Town of Plymouth states the aggregate removal is for “agriculture.” Some new bogs were built, but the volume of earth removed far outstrips the amount needed to build the bogs. The image shows that the site is still denuded.

The cumulative impact of the earth removal along the Wankinko River, Frogfoot Reservoir and Harlow Brook has never been evaluated. The forests and vegetation once filtered the water and helped the aquifer to recharge.

Endangered Pine Barrens Tiger Beetle (Cincindela patruela)