State grant will help Great Barrington improve water quality of Lake Mansfield

GREAT BARRINGTON — A state grant will help the town improve the water quality of Lake Mansfield and decrease invasive weeds nurtured by stormwater runoff.

The Gov. Charlie Baker-Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito administration this week announced about $1.5 million in grants to eight communities facing significant stormwater pollution problems. Great Barrington, the only Berkshire community to win an award, will receive $288,925 to install catch basins to stop pollution from flowing down Knob Hill Road and straight into the 30-acre Mansfield Lake.

"We've been working for over 10 years to bring water quality improvement to Lake Mansfield; this grant is a major success in the right direction," said Christine Ward, chairwoman of the Lake Mansfield Improvement Task Force.

Stormwater runoff occurs when rainwater or snowmelt carries sediments like road debris, such as oil, salt, sand and gravel, animal waste, or lawn treatment chemicals and nutrients, from their intended location and deposits them elsewhere. At Lake Mansfield, stormwater runoff has been an ongoing problem town officials and task force volunteers have worked years to address.

It has contributed to beach erosion, making the lake more shallow, and occasional flooding. It also has added to weed growth — the more shallow the water, the easier it is for underwater weeds to thrive. In 2013, the town installed catch basins by the lake at Castle Hill Avenue, and the system is now keeping about 33 tons of sediment out of the lake per year, said Town Planner Christopher Rembold.

"We're hoping for another great success like that," Rembold said, noting the similarities between the 2013 project and the one that just won grant funding. The lake "is an amazing community resource for the town; it's fantastic for people of all ages and in all seasons. Funding like this will help us retain the quality of this resource."

Money for the grant was provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency via the Clean Water Act and distributed in Massachusetts by the Department of Environmental Protection — and there is a string attached: Great Barrington has to match a portion of the grant.

The total cost of installing catch basins on Knob Hill Road is $500,000, and the town has to kick in about $210,000, Rembold said. The town has just about covered that expense using about $100,000 from the Community Preservation Act to commission an engineer to figure out the stormwater and impact of the road on the lake, the in-kind work of town employees and volunteers, and once the basins are in, the town will pay to repave the road — all of which count toward the town's match, he said.

Rembold said that with the grant secured, the town's next step will be to finalize engineering plans, which he anticipates will happen in spring summer 2018. Then the project will go out to bid. Construction likely will not begin until 2019, he said.

"We're going to keep everyone informed of the design and timeline and how important it is to continue stormwater improvements," Rembold said.

Back on Beacon Hill, the area's representatives weighed in on the award.

"Congratulations to the town, the Lake Mansfield Committee, and Christine Ward, without whom this project would not be possible," state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, said in a prepared statement.

"We should be making every effort possible to ensure that all residents in the Commonwealth have access to clean water resources," said state Sen. Adam Hinds. D-Pittsfield, also in a statement.

Kristin Palpini can be reached at and@kristinpalpini on Twitter.


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