For Immediate Release - September 22, 2009

Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office Reaches Settlement with Help Save the Lake, Inc. for Alleged Environmental Violation Related to the Construction of a Temporary Dam in Taunton

BOSTON- Today, Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office entered into a settlement agreement with Help Save the Lake, Inc. to resolve alleged violations of the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act and the Massachusetts Waterways statute. In 2007, Help Save the Lake, a group made up of Taunton-area citizens, participated in the construction of a coffer dam (temporary dam) at the outlet of Lake Sabbatia, in Taunton, without the necessary authorizations from the Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). Members of Help Save the Lake constructed the coffer dam in an effort to raise water levels in Lake Sabbatia that had fallen after the Department of Conservation and Recreation's Office of Dam Safety ordered the gates opened on Morey's Bridge Dam because of significant public safety concerns with that structure.

Under the terms of the settlement signed by both parties today, Help Save the Lake, Inc. is responsible for lowering the height of the central part of the dam and securing the remaining concrete blocks as soon as weather and water-level conditions allow for the work to occur safely. The modifications should reduce the potential risks associated with a failure of the structure and the likelihood of continued upstream flooding during winter months and other high water flow conditions. MassDEP will oversee the work.

Based on the information obtained by the Commonwealth during its investigation, the Commonwealth has alleged that the temporary dam was constructed without all necessary authorizations from MassDEP, in the absence of a Massachusetts registered professional engineer in charge of oversight of the work, and not in accordance with the engineering plans for the project. These issues created concerns about the structural integrity of the temporary dam. Today's settlement, in conjunction with the removal of the ailing Morey's Bridge Dam gatehouse and its substructure earlier this year as part of a separate action, should further minimize safety concerns to downstream residents and businesses and flooding issues for upstream residents.

This settlement resolves one part of the Commonwealth's ongoing and coordinated efforts to resolve safety and environmental issues associated with the temporary dam and the larger Morey's Bridge Dam in Taunton. Last October, Attorney General Coakley's Office filed a lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court requesting that emergency measures be taken to address safety concerns over the structural integrity of two dams in Taunton. The two dams, which are adjacent to each other, hold back the waters of Lake Sabbatia. As a result of that action, Attorney General Coakley's Office obtained a preliminary injunction against Jefferson Development Partners, LLC (Jefferson Development), the registered owner of the Morey's Bridge Dam in Taunton, which required the company to take the implement remedial safety measures described above. This matter remains pending.

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Seth Schofield of Attorney General Coakley's Environmental Protection Division. Handling this case for MassDEP's Southeast Regional Office are Christopher Ross, Environmental Engineer, and Shaun P. Walsh, Senior Regional Counsel.