Tempers flare in Water Resources votes

Upper Westport River. Upper Westport River.

The push to repair failed systems is driven in part by concerns over elevated nitrogen levels in the Westport River.

The upper Westport River.

A sharply divided Board of Selectmen threw its support to the town’s Water Resources Management Committee Monday  in ongoing wrangling about oversight of efforts to clean up the Westport River.

Late into a marathon meeting, the selectmen supported a series of motions proposed by the Water Resources Management Committee meant to, in the words of one committee member, “prevent us from being left out of the loop” on waterways issues.

The votes were accompanied by angry debate and the walkout of Selectman Craig Dutra.

“The whole thing was so unnecessary,” and a “waste of time,” Mr. Dutra said later.

“It is another example of this ill-conceived committee” doing its utmost to interfere with studies seeking to rid the river of excess nitrogen.

Mr. Dutra said he left the meeting out of frustration.

“All I and others want to have happen is for the (river studies) to be completed so that we can wind up with a healthier river.”

He said he thinks the Water Resources Management Committee has done little or nothing in its first year except play an “obstructionist” role in the cleanup effort.

The series of votes resulted in the same 3-2 outcome (until Mr. Dutra’s departure). Voting in favor of the Water Resources Committee requests were Chairman Richard Spirlet, Antone Vieira Jr. and R. Michael Sullivan. Mr. Dutra and Steven Ouellette were opposed.

Water Resources Committee member Bill Burns, who first proposed the motions, said he was pleased by the decision. The committee was created by the Selectmen to help protect Westport waters, he said, but has been hampered by other groups that repeatedly seek to bypass it.

His motions had been made a month ago in response to word that the Westport Fishermen’s Association pitched in money to assist with completion of a river nitrogen study that is two-thirds complete.

One of the motions asked the Board of Selectmen to put a hold on the $10,000 Fishermen grant and instead send the funding request to the Water Resources Management Committee.

Another asked Selectmen to amend the July 2012 Bread and Cheese Brook study to have the Westport Water Resources Management Committee be included as the recipient of all data for the town, and that the committee be the town’s designee to administer contract finances.

And another asked Selectmen to instruct UMASS Dartmouth – School for Marine Science and Technology (UMD-SMAST) “that all information and data from the July 2012 Bread and Cheese Brook study contract, either generated from Westport River Watershed Alliance (WRWA) to UMD-SMAST, or UMD-SMAST to the Town of Westport, or WRWA, also be provided to the Westport Water Resources Management Committee as the town’s appointed committee/designee on water related issues and (also to) the Westport Board of Health.” The Water Resources Committee also asked for “copies of all data collection related to this study with the data package to include; the way collection was done, lab notes, field notes, analytical data process, and interpretations.”

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