Marion to pay $33,000 Sprague's Cove fee

By Tanner Harding | Jun 20, 2017
Marion —

The town of Marion will pay the $33,539 fee to the Army Corps of Engineers for the seawall at Sprague’s Cove.

In January, Selectmen were informed that the Army Corps of Engineers was billing the town $33,539 in “mitigation” costs due to an unpermitted seawall built at the cove.

The wall was built by the Department of Public Works, and was part of a project by the Conservation Commission to stop the erosion of the earthen dikes in the cove.

According to Town Administrator Paul Dawson in January, all parties were unaware at the time that they were within the Army Corps of Engineers’ jurisdiction.

When the fee was handed down, Dawson said the “worst case scenario” was that the town would satisfy that fee through means other than a cash payment.

After seeking other alternatives, Dawson said there’s really no other option but to pay the fee.

“I understand it’s a bit of a pill to swallow,” he said. “We have worked really hard to come up with a different alternative, but I don’t see one and I don’t think one is likely.”

The Army Corps of Engineers had said that alternatively to the fine, the town could pay to replicate or create wetlands in another part of town, but that would likely cost more than the $33,000 in fees.

In March, the Selectmen agreed to consult with the town’s lawyer about legal alternatives, but Dawson said that proved fruitless as well.

“We have a letter from Town Counsel saying there is no legal alternative here,” Dawson said. “Likely any attempt to litigate would be unsuccessful.”

In order to to avoid paying the fees in a legal setting, the town would have to prove that the fee structure is “arbitrary and capricious,” Dawson said, and that doesn’t seem to be the case.

“The fee was calculated pursuant to an objective schedule,” Dawson said. “It was clearly tied to a consistent approach the Army Corps uses.”

The money to pay the fees was appropriated at Town Meeting in May, and the Selectmen gave their approval to use it at Tuesday night’s meeting.

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