By Kim Siebert MacPhail
The Vine Brook, which flows alongside Burlington Road near the Route 62 on-ramps to Route 3, is home to an endangered fish, the Bridal Shiner. So when Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) representative Andrea Norton Wenzel came to the Commission on July 24 about erosion repair work to be done on one of the Route 3 embankments, it was the Bridle Shiner that Conservation Commission members were most concerned about.
The cause of the erosion of the slope, Wenzel said, is the incline of the embankment, coupled with changes in the intensity of rain events. “It happened because the slope is steep; it just got washed away,” Wenzel explained. “Instead of gentle rains, we’re having hard-driving monsoons.”
MassDOT’s proposal to fix the erosion takes a two-tiered approach: one tier at the top of the incline on Route 3 and another tier at the bottom, near the Vine Brook. The work will consist of the temporary removal of the guardrail, excavation, and creating a temporary access path so that small-scale dump trucks can haul away compromised materials.
The area to be reconstructed sits approximately 30 feet north from the edge of the Vine Brook and encompasses 70 feet in the direction of Route 62. “That’s the width of the area that they’re going to be repairing,” Wenzel said. “They’re going to be [working] from the bottom of the slope to the top of the slope. They’re going to remove the part that has sloughed off into the 100-year flood plain. Erosion control will be put in place, and Elizabeth Bagdonas [the Conservation Administrator] will be contacted so she can check everything. It will be adjusted to her needs and wants.”
The Commission acknowledged the importance of fixing the embankment. Chair John Willson said there was a “real risk” that the slope could deteriorate further. “We’ve got a ramp off a major highway that could collapse,” Willson concluded.
But with its primary focus on preservation of wetland environments, the Commission’s main concerns about this project were sediment control and discharges that could disturb the balance of the Vine Brook’s environment.
Speaking for the Bridle Shiner, Conservation Commission member Tim Gray explained to Wenzel: “It turns out we have this amazing habitat for an endangered fish in Vine Brook. We don’t want to get a bunch of sedimentation in the stream.”
“We found out [about the Bridle Shiner] not too long ago,” added Willson, referring to a presentation in April to the Commission by noted biologist Bryan Windmiller. “This is the only place in Massachusetts [where Bridlel Shiners thrive], as far as we know.”
Wenzel emphasized that the construction equipment performing the work will sit away from Vine Brook and reach over the water with a mechanical arm. Hay bales and other erosion preventions such as filter fabric and coir logs will also protect the area.
To be certain that the habitat is secure, the Commission placed an order of condition for their approval, which requires an environmental site inspector to report to the Conservation Department on a weekly basis through the length of project as well as when heavy rains are expected.
“The reasonable thing is to get [the slope] fixed, and the concern is protecting Vine Brook,” summarized Willson.
Wenzel estimated that once the work commences, the project should be completed in about two weeks.
To read more about the Bridle Shiner, see an earlier Bedford Citizen article: https://www.thebedfordcitizen.org/2013/04/16/citizen-scientists-can-help-endangered-species-conservation-efforts/