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River Banks at West Springfield. In September last, the board was petitioned by the selectmen of West Springfield to investigate the condition of the banks of the river in that town, which, it was alleged, were wearing away and caving in, and thus undermining a dike which had been built along the bank for the protection of the public highways of the town, and the private property of a large number of its inhabitants, in times of freshet.
The locality was visited in October, and such examinations were made by the engineer of the board and his assistant as the high stage of the water at that season of the year would permit. It was found that the bank was caving and receding in several places on the West Springfield shore, and at some points quite rapidly. The greatest wearing was in the vicinity of the Boston and Albany railroad bridge; and, about 70 feet below the bridge, it had reached to within 8 to 12 feet of the foot of the slope of the dike.
It was also found that at various places on the opposite bank, in the city of Springfield, retaining walls and other structures had been built by the railroad companies and others below the high-water line, and that, in some places, the dumping of a considerable or large amount of ashes, cinders and other material, outside or beyond the line of the walls, was going on. These encroachments tend to
rect the force of the current against the West Springfield bank, and, by narrowing the width of the river channel, to increase the height of the water in times of freshet; and they are likely to be especially injurious when made on that section of the river opposite the dike.
This dike appears to have been built under the direction of the county commissioners, pursuant to the provisions of chapter 80 of the acts of 1868, the cost being apportioned to the town and the several owners of land benefited. It is to be maintained, repaired or rebuilt by the town, the expense to be divided in like proportions by the selectmen, as provided in chapter 389 of the acts of 1869.
For the distance of about 100 feet immediately below the railroad bridge, the dike was most in need of immediate repair. A temporary bulkhead had been built by the town authorities, which would probably be of little use unless backed by earth and rubble. But there appears to be ample statute provision for the maintenance of the dike, and the emergency and cost do not at present seem to be beyond the reasonable ability of those most directly concerned to provide for.
But the unauthorized and injurious encroachments on the Springfield side of the river ought not to continue. If these are prevented, expedients may be adopted to arrest the wearing of the opposite bank now going on. It is the intention of the board to make further investigations when the season of low water in the river arrives.
LEASE OF HANGMAN'S ISLAND.
All lands and waters within the territorial limits of the Commonwealth, to which no individual or body corporate shows or can show title, are the property of the Commonwealth. It is to be presumed in such cases either that the State and its predecessors, the Colony and Province, have never granted the original title derived from the crown of England, or else that the title has revested in the State by escheat or otherwise.
The State not only has jurisdiction or dominion, as the sovereign power, over such lands and waters, but is the owner of the fee, and may convey or lease them as proprietor.
Outside of the public domain in tide waters and great ponds, and the Province lands in the town of Provincetown, it is not known or supposed that there are any considerable tracts of territory to which the State holds title as above. There are, however, parcels of such land. Quite a number, in the form of islands in tide waters and great ponds, have come to the knowledge of the board during the last few years; and leases of some of them have been given in the name of the Commonwealth.
The board is authorized, with the approval of the governor and council, to lease public lands for periods not
exceeding five years. Such a lease (see Appendix, D) has been given the last year of Hangman's Island in Boston harbor.
This island, less than an acre in extent, is within the tide-water limits of the city of Quincy; but neither that city nor any other municipality or person has shown or claimed the ownership of it. The island has been occupied for some years by a small colony of industrious and thrifty fishermen, who desired to acquire a legal right of possession and improvement, and to have the power to exclude persons making it a place of irregular resort. The lease has been given to a trustee for their common use and benefit.
The foregoing Report is respectfully submitted.
JOHN E. SANFORD.
BOSTON, January 1, 1891.