Following public criticism over herbicide spraying by the power company NStar, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources has extended the public comment period for the utility’s 2014 vegetation management plan.
The extension “will allow for more time for residents and municipal officials to review the sensitive area mapping and the communities more time to comment during the holidays,” said Mary-Leah Assad, spokesman for the state agency, in an email. Sensitive areas include wetlands, public groundwater supplies, rivers and certified vernal pools, among others.
The plan, which allows selective application of herbicides under the company’s power lines, has raised environmental concerns on the Cape and Vineyard. (Nantucket is served by the National Grid, a different power company).
The comment period, originally scheduled to close Jan. 4, has been extended to Feb. 18.
The plan represents a shift from a program during the past four years in which herbicides were not applied to vegetation on the right of way territories of Cape Cod and the Vineyard. This four-year moratorium, which NStar voluntarily imposed in 2009, allowed for the mapping of private wells on the Cape. It expired in November, when NStar reinitiated its integrated vegetation management program, which combines mechanical and chemical removal of trees and brush.
The yearly operational plan for 2014 allows NStar to apply herbicides in “touch-up” fashion in Tisbury, Oak Bluffs and Edgartown.
Tisbury’s target right of way cuts through West Chop, running parallel to Lake Tashmoo before cutting toward Edgartown Road. The right of way in Oak Bluffs is a small segment near Dodger’s Hole. Edgartown’s right of way is unlikely to see spraying anytime soon, because it coincides with the fire road and is maintained by the state.
The plans are available for review online. Comment letters can be submitted to Commissioner Greg Watson at the Department of Agricultural Resources, 251 Causeway St, Suite 500, Boston, MA 02114.
“MDAR welcomes all public comments and will review them before issuing a decision,” Ms. Assad wrote.