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Several Berkshires projects win state grants to contend with our changing climate

waconah park flooded (copy)

A flooded Wahconah Park in Pittsfield is pictured in 2012.

Several projects in the Berkshires to handle heavier rains brought on by the changing climate will advance with new backing from the state.

The $4.6 million in overall grant funding for 31 projects statewide, announced this week, includes $367,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding to pay for construction work on a culvert replacement project along the Savery Brook at Frost Road in Washington.

The culvert there is too small and collapsed. The finished structure will increase stream connectivity, improve aquatic habitat, and reduce flooding hazards.

“We are thrilled to finally have the last piece of the funding puzzle fall into place,” said Kent Lew, chairman of the Washington Select Board. “That culvert, already undersized, collapsed four or five years ago. The result is serious flooding over the entire road. I myself have seen otters dashing across the road because they can’t get through the culvert.”

He said previous grant funding of about $47,000 paid for the design of the culvert replacement project, and that the town had been applying for other grants to finish the project.

“I don’t think I can communicate our level of frustration over this,” Lew said. “In a rainstorm, that road essentially becomes a dam.”

Now that the funding is in place, the town will put the project out to bid, hoping to start work in the fall, with completion in the spring, Lew said.

Another grant of $26,500 will go to Egremont to conduct engineering, design, and permitting work on a culvert replacement project along a tributary to Karner Brook at Blunt Road. Replacing the degraded structure will improve stream connectivity and decrease barriers to wildlife passage.

In the town of Mount Washington, the Nature Conservancy will get $50,000 in American Rescue Plan Act money to remove the Becker Pond Dam.

Taking it out, the state says, will both eliminate a public safety hazard and the liability the dam’s owner faces. It will also restore the pond’s ecology, including fish passage. The money will go to cover final designs on the dam’s removal, along with permitting and bid services.

Also receiving a grant is the Housatonic Valley Association’s Berkshire Clean, Cold, Connected Restoration Partnership. The $220,375 grant will fund ecological restoration, such as road-stream crossing replacements.

According to information released by the governor’s office, the projects were chosen to strengthen community preparedness for large storms, improve climate-ready infrastructure, protect fisheries, wildlife, and river habitats, and restore floodplain habitat and flood storage capabilities.

The money comes from the Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Ecological Restoration.

Climate specialists say climate change in New England will result in more humidity and fewer rain episodes — but when there is rain, it will come with greater wind severity and heavier rainfall, resulting in the need for higher-capacity culverts and drains.

Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement this week that the grants help replace aging infrastructure and enhance outdoor recreation.

Ron Amidon, commission of the Department of Fish and Game, said the projects funded will improve habitat, water quality and public safety.

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or 413-281-4622.

News Reporter

Scott Stafford has been a reporter, photographer, and editor at a variety of publications, including the Dallas Morning News and The Berkshire Eagle.

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