Topsham Navy Annex study predicts minimal environmental impact from redevelopment

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TOPSHAM — An environmental assessment of the Topsham Navy Annex predicts minimal impact as a result of reuse or redevelopment of the site, officials said Wednesday.

The U.S. Navy and consultants held a public meeting at Town Hall to present a draft of that assessment. The final draft of the report should be ready this fall and available to the public for 30 days at places including the Topsham Public Library to solicit public input. If the public is generally satisfied with the assessment, the Navy will issue a Finding of No Significant Impact, which could occur by the end of the year.

“For the most part, we’re seeing that the projected impacts are minimal or non-significant,” said Lisa Joy, environmental director at Brunswick Naval Air Station.

The Navy prepared the assessment in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act for the disposal and reuse of the annex property. That property’s 74 acres are proposed to be redeveloped through mixed uses: 14 acres would comprise business and community uses, while 46 acres would span the residential district. Another 14 acres would be left as open space, with recreational and natural areas.

“When we do an (environmental assessment), the intent there is that we study all the environmental effects, but we feel going into it that there’ll be no significant impacts,” said Tom Stephan, the NEPA planning coordinator for the Base Realignment and Closure program management office out of Philadelphia.

“This is a key document in that transfer of property cannot occur … without this NEPA process being completed,” Joy said.

The reuse plan is consistent with the Topsham Annex Reuse Master Plan and includes pedestrian-friendly transportation features and compact development. It also proposes infrastructure improvements such as upgrades to roadways and water/wastewater systems, as well as a new stormwater system.

The full build-out is expected to take place over 20 years.

The proposed plan could create minor, short-term impacts on water quality from the discharge of sediments during construction, according to the assessment; best management practices would be employed to mitigate those impacts. A permit would be required for any impacts on wetlands to occur, ensuring that mitigation would be minor.

There could be a minor impact to transportation at the intersection of Route 201 and Eagles Way, and there would be no significant impact on air quality.

In terms of impacts on threatened or endangered species, the plan is not expected to adversely affect Atlantic salmon. A minor loss of vegetation through execution of the plan could result in the displacement of wildlife.

A minor impact on infrastructure could occur due to an increase in demand for sewage conveyance and potable water, while necessary upgrades to the utility infrastructure to meet local standards could create a moderate impact.

The assessment also examines alternatives to the proposed plan, such as using all 74 acres for an office/business park, which would create a higher density of development. NEPA also requires that the assessment cover a no-action alternative, which serves as a baseline against which human and natural environmental effects are weighed. Through that option, no redevelopment or reuse would occur, and the property would be retained in caretaker status by the federal government.

A more significant environmental impact statement is also being prepared for the Brunswick Naval Air Station, which is due to close in 2011.

“We felt that the EIS at the base was more appropriate, because we feel that we have so much more space … and a total redevelopment plan that was done, so that rose to the level of more public awareness, more public involvement than an EA,” Stephan said.

The Topsham Local Redevelopment Authority was established in December 2005 to develop a reuse plan for the annex; the plan was adopted two years later. In January 2008 the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority was charged with carrying out the annex reuse master plan.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.