By Jack Guerino, iBerkshires Staff
Monday, December 14, 2015
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Williams College students are aiding in the environmental planning on the Willow Dell/Canal Street area of the Hoosic River Revival project.
Professor Sarah Gardner’s Environmental Planning class presented their ideas for restoring the North Branch at last week’s annual meeting of the project at Freight Yard Pub. The main focus now, however, is the South Branch section that runs along Noel Field.
The state Division of Ecological Restoration, which is footing the bill for the study, published the request for proposals in January. In March, stakeholders vetted the five options.
The project this summer unveiled the phase one plans developed by Inter-Fluve Inc. and Sasaki Associates, which were awarded the design contract.
“We are thrilled with the choice,” Hoosic River Revival President Judith Grinnell said last week. “They are two firms that are nationally renowned for river restoration and urban design.”
She added that the board of advisers along with the community stakeholder have been in communications with Sasaki Associates about flood control, fish habitat, bridges, and urban orchards. It was ultimately decided that the conceptual design that has the river meandering within Noel Field was the most interesting and innovative.
By late June, DER and HRR had received 30 percent conceptual design of the South Branch and 60 percent preliminary design for phase one of the half-mile section from southern most playing field to the Columbus Bridge.
Grinnell, speaking after last Monday’s annual meeting, said Mayor Richard Alcombright in July sent the phase one design to the New York District Army Corps of Engineers and it is hoped the design will be forward by mid-2016 to Washington, D.C., where it will be approved or altered.
Grinnell also said Mass DER funded an analysis by GZA, a New Hampshire engineering firm, which found the two miles of concrete in the flood control chutes are in good shape, but noted that eight wall sections are leaning, including the one that fell in Willow Dell, and may be inadequate. These are most prevalent in the North Branch.
The design called for two parallel rows of steel reinforcing dowels between the wall and the channel bottom in each 20-foot wall section. The fallen piece in the Willow Dell only appears to have one row of dowels.
Grinnell said she and the mayor met in April with Secretary of Energy and Environment Matthew Beaton, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash, and Gov. Charlie Baker to discuss 2015 plans and the state help needed. She said this would come in the form of $100,000 from the 2015 bond bill for soil testing and Army Corps-required design modifications. After finding no success, Grinnell said she met with DCR Commissioner Dan Sieger in December.
In other business at the meeting:
• The attendees watched “Restore a River, Revitalize a City,” a short film commissioned by HRR to help in raising funding. Sasaki also was asked to create a booklet to tell the HRR story.
• Grinnell was one of nine recipients of the 2015 New England Region EPA Individual Merit Award.
• Mayor Alcombright and river ecologist Cindy Delpapa were presented with photographs of the river taken by Kelly Lee to recognize their support of the project.
• Elected to the board of directors for the first time was Nancy Bullett, a North Adams native and city councilo; re-elected to three-year terms were John DeRosa, Lauren Stevens, Elena Traister and Dave Willette. Both Juliet Flynt and Gianni Donati officially joined the HRR Advisory Council. Officers for 2016-17 will be President Judy Grinnell, Vice President Dave Willette, Treasurer Bryon Sherman and Secretary Bert Lamb.