Appeals court upholds Calf Pasture decision

A Boston Water and Sewer Commission lawsuit looking to recoup money lost in a legislative move to block the sale of a Columbia Point property was dismissed by the state Appeals Court last week. The decision effectively upholds efforts by Dorchester's Beacon Hill delegation to prevent a land deal between the commission and the University of Massachusetts at Boston.

Filed in January 2003, after a bitter feud pitting local activists and politicians against UMass-Boston and BWSC officials, the suit challenged the decision of a prior case in which the BWSC claimed a lack of due process and a breach of agreements, and sought land damages. The court upheld the original decisions, citing a 1983 ruling that "agencies created by the Commonwealth may not challenge the constitutionality of the acts of the another of the Commonwealth's agencies."

The "Hart Amendment" put into legislative cement local feelings against the siting of the waste-handling station.

"It feels good to have the position we have taken validated by the appeals court," said state Sen. Jack Hart Tuesday.

BWSC spokesman Thomas Bagley said the BWSC likely will appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court, and that the department would refrain from comment because the matter is "currently in litigation." A favorable decision would have rewarded the commission with compensation and delayed any efforts to force the station to relocate.

In the meantime, the Commission has moved ahead themselves with plans to relocate the facility to a 17-acre lot on Frontage Road now used as an industrial site and public works yard, meeting recently with Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

Menino said Tuesday that he fully backs the Frontage Road site for the facility, which compresses sewage and road waste, and processes it onto trucks which then haul the waste elsewhere.

"We all agree that it has to happen," Menino said, saying he hopes to move forward with the plan this winter to free up the current pump station for UMass use.

Unfolding almost concurrently with a political row over the possibility of student dormitories on Columbia Point, the 2002 battle against the land stemmed from the sewage facility's purpose: to store and consolidate raw sewage and catch basin materials, then transfer them on front-end loaders to trucks that haul them to an off-site landfill. The BWSC-UMass deal would have allowed the school to use the historic pumping station for a science building, and given the commission a parcel close to Boston College High School for the same sewage-handling use.

UMass-Boston Chancellor Michael Collins told the Reporter in August that the plans for a science building were developed under his predecessors, but that they had not been revisited.