ATTLEBORO — The city’s conservation commission has imposed an “enforcement order” on the public works department in response to the damage DPW crews did on the banks of the Ten Mile River last week.
According to Conservation Agent Nick Wyllie, DPW workers clear-cut an estimated 10,000 square feet of land along the Ten Mile, near the Lamb Street Bridge, in violation of the state’s wetland protection law and the city’s wetland protection ordinance.
The commission on Wednesday night ordered the DPW, headed up by Mike Tyler, to “stabilize” within 10 days a section of the riverbank dug up by heavy equipment.
In addition, it ordered that DPW work with Wyllie to come up with a restoration plan prior to the commission’s first meeting in March, about a month away.
Chairwoman Missy Riley told Tyler she believed him when he said the damage was done “without malicious intent,” but said the department must adhere to the same regulations as everyone else.
Any work done within 200 feet of a wetland must under state law be supervised by the commission. In addition, the city has a 25-foot “no disturb zone” that is also regulated by the commission.
Most violations are committed by private citizens who do not have knowledge of the law, Riley said.
“It’s very unusual for the city to come to us with a violation,” she said.
Tyler said his department was unaware of the restrictions when it “took advantage of a non-snowy winter” to clean the banks and river of trash and other debris.
The banks were stripped of all trees and brush from the edge of the river back from 5 to 15 feet, Wyllie said.
Tyler took the blame, saying he failed to consult with Wyllie as he has in the past when working near other wet areas.
Riley said the restoration must be done as soon as possible, noting that new plantings can’t take place until warmer weather.
“What we do is ask violators to remediate in an expedient fashion,” she said. “If it’s not, then we start with fines.”
Failure to comply results in fines of $300 a day.
However, the likelihood of the commission imposing fines seems remote.
Tyler said the work will be done.
“It will be a priority for my department,” he told the commission.