Residents worried about Snow's Pond
Rochester — Water levels at Snow's Pond seem unnaturally low, and many residents are questioning if it's due to the drought or a nearby bog pond excavated by Decas Cranberry Products, Inc. On Wednesday night, concerned residents packed a Rochester Conservation Commission meeting wanting answers.
Decas had a permit from the town to dig the pond, but exceeded that permit by eight feet. On Jan. 27, Rochester issued a notice of violation ordering the company to cease and desist activity at the site.
The Decas pond and Snow’s Pond are separated by about 1,500 feet, and G.A.F. Engineering representative Brian Grady said his team does not believe their client's excavation is related to the low water level at Snow’s Pond.
“Knowing that we’re in a moderate drought and coming off an extreme drought, my opinion is that Snow’s Pond is in the condition it is in because of the drought conditions,” Grady said. “It has nothing to do with Decas Cranberries or what they’re doing.”
His conclusion is that Snow’s Pond is fed by groundwater, and without more rain the water level wasn’t going to bounce back, particularly as the town moves toward the warmer months.
Gary Florindo, the chair of Rochester's Soil Board, said he doesn’t necessarily care what happened or how, he just thinks it needs to be fixed as soon as possible.
“Let’s forget what went wrong,” he said. “At this point let’s fix what went wrong. Whatever you have to do to make it work, do it. The sooner you get [the depth] back to 38 [feet] the sooner Snow’s Pond will come back.”
Speaking as a resident, Facilities Manager Andrew Daniel said he thinks the droughts could have something to do with the low level of Snow’s Pond, but that more than anything he thinks an independent study needs to be done.
“It’s really unfortunate that this happened this year after back-to-back droughts. Snow’s Pond started 14 inches lower this Memorial Day,” he said. “I’d like to propose we have an outside specialist come in and look at the underground water situation and then look at it again next year. A lot of little bodies of water are back up, a lot of ponds are back up, but Snow’s Pond is not back up.”
Other residents agreed with Daniel.
“Something needs to be done fast,” Melanie Sherman Morris said. “We need to get moving on this. This is not normal.”
However, resident Albert Weigel doesn’t think the situation at Snow’s Pond is entirely unique.
“I did a comparison of Snow’s Pond and Mary’s Pond and Mary’s is down 23 inches. Snow’s is down 26 inches,” he said. “They’re both spring fed ponds. I don’t think we have the groundwater yet to fill these ponds back up.”
Resident Bob Lawrence agreed, and said that in his many years living by Snow’s Pond he has seen the water level dip.
“I’ve seen the ups and downs and it’s down,” he said. “I’ve seen it down this far before. It’s been down further. It depends on rainfall…I’m not a fan of what has happened at Decas, but I don’t know if their situation is affecting Snow’s or not.”
Conservation Agent Laurell Farinon agreed with that an independent study should be done.
“We know how special the pond is to so many people. Whether we learn that this is causing the problem or not, it’s scary seeing something you love so much look so different and not knowing if it’s going to come back,” she said. “The only way we can truly know what’s going on is having an independent study done by a hydrogeologist.”
The Conservation Commission members agreed and requested $10,000 from Decas to pay for the review.
Scott Hannula, the Decas project manager, said he would talk to his bosses Wednesday morning about getting the money to the Conservation Commission for the study.
While the meeting turned into a discussion on Snow's Pond, the actual purpose of the discussion was supposed to be about a request from Decas to fill in the over-excavated pond. Decas filed an amended order of conditions to correct the issue, however due to a procedural error, the Conservation Commission could not vote on the issue. The public hearing was continued until March 21.