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Massachusetts cranberry bogs slowly being returned to their native marshy ways

CommonWealth Beacon reports on state and local efforts to return cranberry bogs to their pre-cultivation days as traditional cranberry farmers retire. A lot of sand dredging is involved.



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Growing up on the south shore, a lot of the places we ice skated were on cranberry bogs. Then again, these days we don't even get ice......

If you leave a cranberry bog alone for 10 years, you can build on it.

One of the people quoted in the story talks about a guy from Pembroke. Bogs that were active 20 years ago in Pembroke now how houses on them because owners let them go and waited the time out while still being under agricultural (i.e. cheap) taxes.

Also, cranberry farming has changed. You need 1 acre of back land to support 1 acre of cranberry bogs. The old rule was 3 acres of backland for 1 acre of bog.

Cranberries have a big surplus right now, thus a lot of land around bogs is also getting turned over to solar. If you fly over Carver, Middleboro, and Wareham it looks like you are flying over dozens of Hancock buildings on their side.

That may work for some inland bogs and may have been a policy in the past.

I'd doubt you could get flood insurance on them today - they are built on areas built as flood lands and insurers are getting picky. The state and many towns are getting much more conscious of the impacts and possibilities for these lands.

Near to the shoreline many bogs were built on brackish swamps to start with, are already vulnerable to storm surges and will also be vulnerable to tidal flooding in the coming years. That is why various groups are making this rewilding work economically attractive for the farmers - why have a bunch of houses that flood regularly in heavy rain and end up with salt-fouled wells and failing septic systems when you can have a good place to put incoming and outgoing surges of water?

Senate minority leader Bruce Tarr gets freaking misty eyed over this stuff. He's the local god of self-nourishing salt marshes. Definitely worth looking into what he is up to for coastal zone management - he makes a very good case for resilience through restoration of buffer zones.

Lots of information on what 21st century coastal zone management means in Massachusetts: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/massachusetts-office-of-coastal-zone-m...


The notion of

If you leave a cranberry bog alone for 10 years, you can build on it

is inaccurate at best.

Whether a bog or former bog can be built upon depends not on how much time has elapsed since it was abandoned, or whether it's inland or marine, but whether it's regulated as upland or wetland. Bogs constructed in uplands and artificially irrigated to give them the appropriate hydrology may indeed be able to be built upon, but there's no agreed-upon period of waiting before the bog magically reverts to upland and building is permitted. Bogs constructed in former wetlands, or that permanently diverted water from a stream for their hydrology, or that were made in uplands but were excavated down far enough to hit seasonal groundwater, are now jurisdictional wetlands and one would be waiting a very long time indeed (like until the landscape changed) before being able to do anything like what was described.

Source: me. I'm a wetland scientist and environmental consultant who has done work on both active and abandoned bogs, in both uplands and wetlands, and has permitted the conversion of bogs and ancillary areas to solar projects in this very region.