New plan aims to reduce erosion in Fearing Hill solar project

Sep 27, 2022

A new construction plan for the Fearing Hill solar project aims to cut down on erosion and stormwater runoff.

The project, discussed by the planning board at their Sept. 26 meeting, is a proposed 20-acre solar field that would sit on 44 acres of land on 91 and 101 Fearing Hill Road. It requires the developer, Wareham MA 3, LLC., to clear-cut much of the forest on the property. 

Since it was first presented to town permitting boards in 2021, the Fearing Hill solar project has seen heavy criticism from town residents concerned with the project’s effect on stormwater runoff and groundwater quality in the area. 

The five-phase construction plan was presented by Richard Tabaczynski, an engineer with Atlantic Design Engineers, the firm working on the project. He explained that roughly five acres of forest would be clear-cut in each phase to reduce the effects of erosion. 

In the new plan, erosion control measures would be installed, and a temporary ground cover would be planted to re-establish vegetation as each phase is completed, said Tabaczynski. 

In similar projects, forests are often clear-cut all at once, he added.

“The developers know that this is a little unorthodox,” he said. “But they've committed to doing it in this manner based on how much concern there is about this process.”

The first phase of construction will clear trees from the southern perimeter of the property, establish an access road on the land, and create a stormwater basin to collect water before it reaches neighboring properties. 

“We wanted to get this phase constructed first because of the sensitivity to the neighbors down on Fairfield road and in the south and southeast of the project,” said Tabaczynski. 

Phase two will clear trees from the northern perimeter of the property and establish another stormwater basin. 

Phases three through five will clear trees from the rest of the land, beginning at the top of Fearing Hill and working outwards. 

According to Tabaczynski, construction on the solar field will begin in phases six through nine of the project, which have not yet been presented to the Planning Board. 

Despite the changes, concerns were still raised by residents and by the board.

Town resident Annie Hayes raised issue with the effects of this project on locals whose well water may be affected by construction.

“I think [the project] is so destructive and doesn't have to happen,” she said. “It is destroying a forested watershed.”

Planning Board member Sherry Quirk asked Tabaczynski to prepare information about the project’s insurance and its compliance with local fire department regulations before the board’s next meeting on Monday, Oct. 3.

“I know that the planning board is very concerned about the impact of this project on the neighbors,” said Quirk. “It would add some comfort if we could understand that there was insurance in place to address issues that may be unforeseen, but nevertheless affect the neighbors.”