My Turn: Quabbin region will never see any benefits from reservoir

An aerial view of the Quabbin Reservoir.

An aerial view of the Quabbin Reservoir. FILE PHOTO

Loons surface between dives in the Quabbin Reservoir near Gate 31 in New Salem.

Loons surface between dives in the Quabbin Reservoir near Gate 31 in New Salem. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By MIKE MAGEE

Published: 05-12-2024 4:49 PM

 

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Never again should the residents of the Quabbin region be fooled into believing that they will see any benefits from the Quabbin Reservoir.

In the 1930s, the state took the entire towns of Enfield, Dana, Prescott and Greenwich, as well as parts of Petersham, Pelham, New Salem, Shutesbury, Barre, Ware, Belchertown and Hardwick. Thousands lost their homes and livelihoods to provide pristine, clean drinking water for Greater Boston.

For the past 90 years, Greater Boston has benefited from the best drinking anywhere as well as swimming pools, running tracks, skating rinks and parks built by the Metropolitan District Commission and its successor, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA). Do any of the Quabbin towns have a swimming pool, running track, skating rink or park paid for by the MDC or MWRA?

Of course not — all the benefits of the Quabbin water went to Greater Boston communities.

You might think the Quabbin lands are a park for local residents. No way. Let’s just look at how restrictive use is for local residents. The MWRA restricts snowmobiling, cross country skiing, sledding, swimming, camping, dog walking, canoeing, kayaking, horseback riding, off road biking, and all boating without a fishing license. Years ago, I bought a fishing license and rod just so I could rent a boat to see the beauty of the reservoir.

Now Sen. Jo Comerford and Rep. Aaron Saunders have filed bills (S 447/ H 897) that would greatly expand the service area of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority to include Ludlow, Belchertown, Ware, Hardwick, Barre, Petersham, Phillipston, New Salem, Orange, Wendell, Shutesbury and Pelham. In addition, the MWRA is studying greatly expanding service to almost all of eastern Massachusetts including Brockton, the North and South Shore and Metro West.

Oh and, if you believe it, the Quabbin communities would potentially benefit from a 5 cent per 1,000 gallon rate increase on Quabbin water amounting to $3.5 million per year. The 12 Quabbin communities as well as local nonprofit groups would be able to use the funds for health, welfare, safety and transit.

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I don’t believe a word they say. Except that Brockton will get Quabbin water. Scituate, Hingham, Rockland and Weymouth will get Quabbin water. The super-wealthy suburban towns of Acton, Concord, Lincoln, Wellesley and Weston will get Quabbin water. To the north, Danvers, Hamilton, Salem and Topsfield will get Quabbin water.

The Quabbin communities would also be eligible for water, except most residents are already on private wells and the towns themselves have adequate water supplies.

Did you know that water consumption by MWRA communities is at the lowest point since 1950 and that the Quabbin is actually overflowing this year? MWRA director of planning and sustainability Stephen Estes-Smargiassi says “that with increased rainfall and significantly lower water consumption over the past decade, the Quabbin is overflowing this year. Water consumption is so low that excess water is being wasted.”

Does the MWRA director of planning and sustainability really believe that water following its natural course down the Swift River into the Connecticut is being “wasted?” Does he really believe that the El Nino-driven wet weather of the past two years will continue forever, that water flowing its natural course is wasted, or that a drought period is not just around the corner?

No, we should be fooled again. Let’s all say ‘no’ to this cockeyed scheme to divert more water from the Quabbin to eastern Massachusetts. We should not be fooled again by promises of riches coming our way. If you feel as I do, please contact Sen. Jo Comerford at Jo.Comerford@masenate.gov and Rep. Aaron Saunders at Aaron.Saunders@mahouse.gov.

Mike Magee is a retired high school history teacher and lifelong environmental activist from Orange.