On this reservoir, anything goes

Tiverton’s Stafford Pond has long been the party house of reservoirs.

Most reservoirs are places of fences, rules and no-trespass signs but not Stafford Pond. This is the fun reservoir — the place where most any activity is not only allowed but encouraged, sometimes by the very people typically tasked with protecting drinking water.

As they tend to do every decade or so, local officials are meeting to voice concern about the fast and loose way this ‘reservoir’ is managed.

They were prompted this time by the fact that a company wants to set up a mammoth recycling facility within the watershed. In their first session, participants  pointed out a number of other odd goings on at this one-of-a-kind reservoir. Swimming is banned there by state law (although some say not very strictly enforced), but not much else.

Fishing is allowed, encouraged even by state stockers, on this small, shallow reservoir, and so is boating — motor boating in fact. The rules stipulate that gas-powered motors are limited to 10 horsepower, a limit that is apparently waved for frequent state-enabled fishing tournaments in which high-powered motorboats race from place to place at speeds up to 70 mph.

Houses, some with suspect septic systems, hug the shore, dogs are free run about at will (many reservoirs forbid dogs from anywhere near the water), and the pond is even a legal landing place for recreational seaplanes.

A water treatment plant offers a measure of protection to the people who drink this water but such facilities are vulnerable to the gasoline drips and spills that always come with outboard motors or to the effluent from ancient cesspools. And invasive species like milfoil or zebra mussels brought in by visiting boats could make a costly mess of the plant’s pipes and equipment.

It is good that this discussion has resumed but it is difficult to imagine but one conclusion.

Motorboats, fishing derbies and a little reservoir are a most peculiar combination.

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