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Concord, Littleton Water Fight Heads to Supreme Judicial Court

December 12, 2018 GMT

LITTLETON -- While the towns of Littleton and Concord are involved in a Land Court case about water rights to Nagog Pond, Littleton’s Water Department has now expanded the dispute to the state’s highest court.

On Friday, Littleton filed a complaint with the Supreme Judicial Court seeking a ruling on how much the town would owe Concord in “water damages” should it begin to use the resources at Nagog Pond.

The move is the latest development in a broader disagreement over who has legal rights to Nagog Pond, and it comes as a separate case from one that Concord brought to the state Land Court last month.

“In times of increasing water scarcity and a growing population, Littleton now needs to identify and develop new water supplies and intends to take and hold at least a part of Nagog Pond’s waters toward that purpose,” Littleton’s filing with the SJC reads.

Nagog Pond lies on the Acton-Littleton town line with roughly half of its surface in each municipality. However, an 1884 act granted Concord rights to use the pond’s water. Concord constructed a dam in 1909, and in the century-plus since then, it has drawn hundreds of thousands of gallons per day.

But Littleton officials say a section of the 1884 legislation reserves rights for Littleton and Acton to use the pond should they desire to do so. With both residential and business expansion underway, including the growth of Patriot Beverages, town officials say they need to use the pond to meet needs.

After unsuccessful negotiations, Concord filed a complaint in Land Court in November asking the state to rule whether Littleton has any legitimate claim. Littleton has not yet responded to that complaint but plans to do so, according to a press release from the Littleton Electric Light and Water District.

“We’re extremely confident that water within our town that we let Concord use while we didn’t need it is ours and that we’ll win whatever case we have to win to get that water,” said LELWD General Manager Nick Lawler.

The SJC case, although related, is its own matter. Under the 1884 act, Littleton is required to compensate Concord for any “water damages” incurred once it begins its use of Nagog Pond. Littleton’s Friday complaint effectively asks the state to appoint a panel of three commissioners to determine what those damages are, a necessary step before Littleton can begin using the pond.

Lawler said the SJC matter was brought forth now -- before any response or resolution in the Land Court case -- with the hopes that Littleton can soon draw from Nagog.

“We need water,” Lawler said. “Our population has increased 25 percent over the last 20 years.”

Concord Town Manager Christopher Whelan could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisLisinski.