Yesterday’s construction violation
The sordid tale of yesterday’s line list violation that we promised comes from our better half, Katy:
This feels a little petty since I know that many readers have far more significant complaints and worries: things like potable water and sewage and foundations and access to their front doors. But something happened yesterday that confirmed one of our fears about the “construction” phase of this operation.
I spent much of the morning and early afternoon watching crews come and go. I’d check in on their progress while washing dishes or letting the dog out for a break. First light of day brought over a half dozen pickup trucks, a couple of rigs sporting a “Ditch Witch” logo, a bunch of guys who converged, consulted, milled about for what seemed to be a long time. Some drove off, and some stayed to install the temporary fence we requested. I noted a Pennsylvania license plate. I also Googled the name of the company emblazoned on a few of the trucks “Precision Pipeline”; it’s a Wisconsin company who apparently does a lot of work for Enbridge.
I heard bulldozers arrive, but I didn’t get up from my desk. When I eventually got up for a drink, I saw three dozers and I watched them move back and forth, to and fro, moving the topsoil into a ridge along one edge of the workspace. After a few minutes it dawned on me. They were moving large amounts of topsoil from my neighbor’s lot onto ours. And not at the edges. They moved large amounts across the width of our lot intentionally. (In the video, the trees on the left side are the lot line; when the dozers are out sight, they’re on the neighbor’s property.)
What’s the big deal? Well, before the clearing began, that Temporary Workspace was a large well-established perennial garden. I’ve spent many hours bent over that portion of the yard, doing battle with stubborn weeds because I know that preventing weeds from going to seed each year is my only hope. Every yard has its own seed bank, its own collection of seeds in the soil. Seeds drop and accumulate year after year–weeds, wildflowers, fruits like crabapples and brambles. Most of the seeds in the bank lie dormant deep in the dirt, some for decades or more. But each time seeds are exposed by sod removal, tilling, or planting, they germinate. Type-A gardeners pay close attention to this seed bank. For instance, if we can’t kill or remove the weed, we go so far as to clip seed heads from weeds, thereby thwarting a deposit into our seed bank. And as each year passes — if one is steadfast — the withdrawals start to outpace the deposits and you start to see a difference. Anyway, that’s been my calling for the past 6 years or so around here.
But here’s the problem: our neighbor’s yard is an unmanaged lot. So the weeds in her soil (and the many years worth of seeds of those weeds) are now ours. So in a matter of minutes, Enbridge bulldozers effectively erased all those years of hard work (in addition the insult of ruining the garden itself).
I called our ROW agent and gave him an ear-full as I stood and watched. I explained that it may not seem like a big deal to him (or anyone else), but I told him that, to a gardener, this is a terrible blow. It’s more work to add to the growing list of things that will have to be done once Enbridge leaves. He assured me that he’d get to the bottom of it.
What’s especially sickening about this is that it was obviously not a mistake. And it’s exactly why we ASKED our ROW agent during negotiations for weed abatement, as part of restoration. We knew something like this would happen, but he totally dismissed our concerns (and implied we were crazy to ask for it), and here we are.
Just for the record, here is a transcript of the email exchange we had on this very matter way back in July.
WE SAID: Restoration will include weed management before grass seeding. Weed management program prior to seeding will take place when temps reach 60 degrees and consists of a 2 week period of watering soil, followed by herbicide, followed by tilling and watering (to bring up more weed seeds), then one more round of herbicide, then seeding. Seeded ground will be protected with DE-SEEDED hay or straw. Watering equipment will remain until seed is established.
ROW AGENT SAID: not approved/ restoration will be followed as in previous projects.
A final point: it doesn’t matter if you don’t care about gardening or weed management or seed banks. Just imagine instead the things about your property that matter most to you. Then imagine that you asked Enbridge not to violate those things that matters most to you. Imagine them treating you like you’re nuts for even bringing it up. Then imagine them willfully and flagrantly violating those very same things.