April 2, 2011

Spring Cleaning

Marc Comtois

Gorgeous day today, no? The morning brought front yard raking to ensure that the weeds I cultivate on my front "lawn" have plenty of aerated soil and room to grow. I spent the afternoon cleaning the assorted flotsam and jetsam that accumulated along my stretch of the brook that makes the southern border of my property. Lots of bottles and cans and styrofoam and balls removed.

The biggest challenge, as it is every year, was removing the bamboo stalks that had broken and landed in the brook, thus blocking the free flow of water. To my mind, it is this invasive bamboo that we find throughout the state, even along the interstate and particularly near our waterways, that needs to be fought and vanquished! I do my part every year. I reclaimed a quarter acre in one battle a decade ago and now I allow some plants to grow along the brook bank to help stem erosion. One day, I'll plant more native species that will be up to that task and banish the bamboo to the far side of my mini-Rhine for all eternity!

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I would be more cautious. This post is an open admission to violation of 1/2 a dozen evironmental laws. The penalties are more severe than you can imagine.

Reminds me of the time I was distressed by neighbors using my wetlands as a dump. I was going to make some trouble about it, but found I could be fined $5,000 a day for allowing it to remain there.

Since it is your property, I can hardly condemn you. But, I would be a little quieter about it.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at April 2, 2011 8:18 PM

Cleaning up a stream or swamp area can actually get you in a lot of trouble. Even removing a shopping cart from the muck can be considered disturbing the environment.

Posted by: Dan at April 2, 2011 10:43 PM

Marc, It's your land. Do what you want. Never mind the tree huggers.

Posted by: George at April 2, 2011 10:47 PM

Haven't checked RI,but in MA you can clear 150 ft of stream "per storm event".

Now that bamboo, that's a whole 'nuther story. It is transparently "wetlands vegetation". That is not working an an area "bordering wetlands", that is destroying wetlands. Clearing a 1/4 acre, I would keep my head down.

Ignore George's advice. You may think it is your land, but it has been "taken". Technically you still have sufficient "rights" that it is not a complete taking, but those rights are few and sparse.

Seriously, although it is probably mirrored somewhere, I would delete this post.

Posted by: Warringtn Faust at April 3, 2011 1:07 AM

It is the view of environmentalists that bamboo is more sustainable than other wood.

Accordingly, even though this is an invasive plant species, Marc has an obligation to the planet not to curb but to encourage its growth on his land and even get people in there to harvest it.

Posted by: Monique at April 3, 2011 7:46 AM

... and harvested via non-mechanized means, of course: no greenhouse gas emitting chain saws or back hoes.

Posted by: Monique at April 3, 2011 7:49 AM

@Monique: You couldn't be more wrong if you tried. Well, maybe you've spoken to *moron* environmentalists, who have never taken a single invasive species course in their entire lives. You should really stop spending your time talking with dumb liberals ;)

Bamboo is a non-native invasive plant species that chokes off local native wildlife... or at least that's what a Plant Biologist with those far less stupid (but equally lefty) Union of Concerned Scientists told me when I worked there in DC.

A) It's his property, and I'm not THAT kind of tree hugger.

B) Even if I was that kind of tree hugger, I'd be shocked if RI had a law on the books about destroying bamboo. If they do, it should be repealed. We are not a panda-feeding operation here.

Posted by: jparis at April 3, 2011 9:56 AM

Thanks for the concern all & I understand the paranoia. But bamboo is a non-native invasive plant and the City of Warwick has even taken steps to remove from my little neck of the woods in the past. It's just hard to do and expensive and thus, low on the priority list. As for removing trash, well, there are regular cleanups of nearby Buckeye Brook that are done regularly.

Posted by: Marc at April 3, 2011 10:06 AM

Marc: Good to hear!

Warwick seems to have its head on straight in some aspects at least. I enjoyed living there for a couple years.

Posted by: jparis at April 3, 2011 10:29 AM

Whether bamboo is "invasive", or not, I think you are "working" in wetlands without an "order of conditions".

About "your land". This has been taken to the Supreme Court (admittedly about 25 years ago, before the great expansion of regulations, it was found not to be a "taking" because the "owner" still had some "rights" and use in the property. What these rights might be was not discussed. I have asked my local conservation board if I could have my friends over for a barbecue on my wetlands. They didn't see where I had that "right" and suggested that I donate the property and take a tax deduction.

PS, for zoning purposes, wetlands still qualify as "land" for lot size determintation. On the other hands, most towns forbid building within 100-200 feet of the border of the wetlands (without an Order of Conditions), this will push you right off an average size lot. This leads to interesting times for subsequent owners, such as the inability to add a rear deck.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at April 3, 2011 5:54 PM

A note on the power of wetlands. This morning I was driving past some of my property in Attleboro, MA. That piece of property borders power lines and I noticed that National Grid was pouring crushed rock about 20 feet on to my property. I stopped to point out to the supervisor the stone bounds that clearly delineated the property lines. Being new to command responsibility, he refused to look at the property line because he "had orders". In a show of force, he put me on the phone with one of their lawyers. This became a lecture on "what they could do". I pointed out that they were "working in wetlands" and I was going to get a copy of their "order of conditions" to ensure compliance (any abutter can do that). Suddenly everything reversed itself and the crushed stone is off my property.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at April 4, 2011 2:59 PM

A footnote. I thought I had better carry through and made a trip to get a copy of the order of conditions. The Conservation Agent told me that public utilities are essentially exempt from wetlands restrictions as regard "maintenance and repair". He suggested that the reason they listened to me is that they have some concern over losing that exemption.

That is great! You, or I, want to add a deck on the rear of the house, we have to go through hoops. The electric company wants to replace 150 poles (major "work in wetlands") and they simply have to "notify" the conservation commission (I gather they don't even bother to read the notices).

Posted by: Warrington Faust at April 4, 2011 6:37 PM
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