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Officials issue a denial after observer critiques Stockbridge Bowl weed dilemma

Select Board OKs dredging plan to fight Stockbridge Bowl weeds (copy)

An aerial view of the southern end of the Stockbridge Bowl in July 2018.

STOCKBRIDGE — Responding to a critical commentary in the Stockbridge Update newsletter, town leaders and the head of the Stockbridge Bowl Association have taken the unusual step of issuing a clarification.{/span}

A news release issued by Town Administrator Michael Canales and signed by Select Board Chair Roxanne McCaffrey and SBA President Pat Kennelly addressed a commentary by Carole Owens, founder and managing editor of the online newsletter.

“SBA is approximately 80 years old. For the first 70 years they worked cooperatively with the Town. No more,” Owens wrote in the Oct. 15 edition of the twice-monthly newsletter.

Firing back, the joint Town Hall-SBA group declared: “This statement ... could not be further from the truth! The Stockbridge Bowl Association and the Town of Stockbridge continue to work cooperatively to ensure the health of the Stockbridge Bowl.”

The Eagle asked Owens to comment on the joint statement. She has not yet responded.

In her editorial, Owens, an author, local historian and a columnist in The Berkshire Eagle and the Berkshire Edge, referred to the decadelong dispute between some in Town Hall and the SBA over use of a chemical for weed control — a situation that affects the many people who use the lake and would benefit from a solution.

Owens also notes that the key player is the state, writing, “notwithstanding anything you have heard or read, neither the Stockbridge Bowl Association (SBA) nor the Town of Stockbridge has final decision-making power over what happens in the lake. The lake is owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Through their governmental departments, such as the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the Commonwealth makes the ultimate decisions.”

Referencing the decades-old controversy in the town on whether to chemically treat the lake to remove invasive Eurasian milfoil weeds, Owens cited last year’s Berkshire Superior Court lawsuit filed by the Stockbridge Bowl Association seeking enforcement of a previous court order clearing the way for the herbicide fluridone treatment.

Judge John Agostini ruled in favor of the SBA, setting the stage for test treatments on designated, limited portions of the lake to see if the chemical used successfully on many Massachusetts lakes could wipe out the weeds.

In her commentary, Owens described the outcome as a “Pyrrhic victory,” meaning one that inflicts such a devastating toll on the victor that it is tantamount to defeat, negating any sense of achievement and damaging long-term progress.

Citing the state Department of Environmental Protection’s conditional, multi-step process on using fluridone over a four-year period, Owens asserted that “at each step, SBA had to meet conditions before proceeding to the next step. It has been two years, and SBA has been unable to meet the first condition. SBA wanted to improve its odds of meeting the first condition, bypassed the Town and went directly to DEP.”

She noted that during the past two summers, the SBA sought testing areas that met DEP conditions and could not find any.

“Two methods proven effective, dredging and harvesting, have been limited or nonexistent,” Owens wrote. “No dredging can turn a lake into the depth of a puddle; no harvesting can turn Stockbridge Bowl into a wetland. Is a fruitless search limiting lake-saving efforts? SBA has the power to decide.”

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com, on Twitter @BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.

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