NEWRY — Selectmen at Tuesday night’s board meeting learned that a new erosion-control technique that mimics “acts of God” ran afoul of a few landowners after a crew illegally cut timber in December 2008 along Chase Hill Brook. They also dropped trees and tree tops onto two other landowners’ properties without permission.
Both Newry watershed consultant Jeff Stern of Fiddlehead Environmental Consulting in Harrison and subcontractor Jay Milot of Caribou Springs LLC in Gilead explained what happened and their remedial efforts.
The work, which is part of a multi-state effort known as the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture, involves cutting trees at strategic intervals along stream banks so trees fall across and into the stream, according to a May 28, 2009, letter from Stern to Simon Haberman of Candlewood Acres in Keene, N.H.
Stern explained to selectmen that the technique — dubbed “chop and drop” — mimics conditions that existed prior to modern land-use practices such as logging that stripped stream-side vegetation.
Adding felled woody debris lessens peak flows, reduces flashiness and bank erosion, traps organic sediments and fish-spawning gravels, and creates pool habitat vital to brook trout.
Stern said Newry wanted Branch and Chase Hill brooks treated with woody debris to control flooding and erosion that has repeatedly damaged bridges across Branch Road, a town road.
In his letter to Candlewood, Stern explained that Milot’s crew worked its way upstream for half a mile from the town road bridge across Branch Road, cutting and felling trees.
When he checked the area last spring, he said he discovered the timber trespass on Candlewood property, and tried to contact Haberman by phone and wrote letters to apologize. However, all went unanswered, so Newry officials agreed to try again.
“We screwed up. How do we fix it?” Selectmen Chairman Jim Largess asked.
“We cut up farther than we should have,” former longtime Newry selectman Steve Wight said.
Cliff Akers owns land on both sides of Branch Brook and along one side of Chase Hill Brook, Stern said. They had permission to only cut on Akers’ land, but not on Peter Dorfman’s land on the opposite side of Chase Hill Brook.
“When we cut the trees, Mr. Dorfman got upset that some of the trees went over onto his property, obscuring especially a swimming hole,” Stern said.
Last summer, Milot removed the offending trees.
“We actually only had permission to cut on property of Cliff’s, and now Bob (Stewart) is upset, because trees have fallen onto his property similar to what happened with Dorfman’s,” Wight said.
He said Stewart was offered remediation.
“But (Stewart) said — and I really think we need to go by this — he said that he wants to walk the property with anybody that’s going to go in and work on it first, to see just exactly what he’s talking about,” Wight said.
He cited a lot of misconception from all involved that only made matters worse.
“So, it’s really about getting Bob happy, and apparently, Candlewood doesn’t care; at least they haven’t responded that they care,” Wight said.
“If anything happens with Candlewood, I take full responsibility,” Milot said.
“I value what (Stewart) has done for natural resources around here, and would like to rectify the situation somewhat …”
Wight suggested that he, Stern, and Milot meet with Stewart this spring, walk beside Stewart’s brook and create a plan to fix the problem.
“His concern was that he had a path, and when Bob builds a path, it’s not necessarily a thing you can discern on the ground,” Wight said. “He knows where it is. Whatever it is, he felt that his ability to walk in a place that he had walked before on his land was disturbed by this and he wanted it to be fixed.”
To prevent similar problems in the future, Wight said, “We want to be real clear about delineating on the ground where the project is happening.”