iberkshires.com, Tuesday, February 03, 2015

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. ‘ The vision of a restored Hoosic River is entering the planning stage.

Nationally recognized river-restoration firm Inter-Fluve Inc. has been selected to lead a team developing an overarching design plan for the Hoosic River Revival‘s pilot restoration project on the South Branch.

Given the multifaceted nature of this project, Inter-Fluve has partnered with Sasaki Associates, a national leader in urban planning and landscape architecture.

“How fortunate we are to have such a strong combination of professionals bringing their talents to North Adams, especially Inter-Fluve and Sasaki, two nationally recognized firms,” Judith Grinnell, president of the river group, said. “We look forward to working with them all on this exciting, transformative project for the city.”

Inter-Fluve was chosen by the state’s Division of Ecological Restoration, in consultation with the Hoosic River Revival and the city of North Adams. The DER considers the river an Urban River Priority Project and will manage the design planning.

River Revival received an $8.775 million earmark for development of this phase from a state Energy and Environmental Bond. A half-million of the funds were released in the fall to begin the design.

The goal of the project will be to redesign the existing engineered channel to improve access, habitat, river health and aesthetics while still maintaining flood protection. River Revival officials say the multifunctional final design requires exceptional experience and unique skills.

With more than 40 engineers and scientists in offices from Massachusetts to Oregon, Inter-Fluve met the high standards required of this project.

Inter-Fluve (meaning the land between two rivers) is a recognized leader in river and wetland restoration with more than 30 years of experience and many awards from such organizations as the American Society of Military Engineers and National Association of Environmental Professionals.

Inter-Fluve’s goal with this project is to ensure 21st century flood protection standards, restore the health of the river, identify opportunities for riverfront redevelopment, and improve the quality of life in the city, just as they have done in Fitchburg, San Antonio and other cities across the country. Jonathon Kusa will serve as the principal-in-charge for this project.

Headquartered in Watertown, Sasaki has designed waterfront projects locally, nationally, and globally, earning more than 500 design awards for such waterfront projects at those in Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Hartford, Conn. With Mark Dawson as the principal landscape architect/planner, Sasaki’s focus will be to create a unique, dynamic, sustainable riverfront design that reflects the city’s history, creates a more engaging amenity for the local community and strengthens North Adam’s role as a landmark cultural and civic destination.

In addition to Sasaki, Inter-Fluve will be joined by HR&A, which developed the downtown plan for the Partnership for North Adams, and the Western Massachusetts firms of Tighe & Bond, Holmberg & Howe, and Stockman Associates. HR&A will help with an economic analysis of the project’s impact on the city.

The objective of the river naturalization project is to have improved water quality, increased accessibility, an aesthetically pleasing river corridor, enhanced riverfront community connectivity, and recreational opportunities, while still protecting the city from flooding.

At more than 60 years old, the concrete panels of flood chutes are aged and weakened; in order to maintain the current level of flood management, they need significant rehabilitation.

The Inter-Fluve/Sasaki team will build upon other planning efforts, including the North Adams Vision 2030 comprehensive plan, the Sustainable Berkshires regional plan, and recent studies focused on enhancing walking, bicycling, and local gateways.

“I am pleased to learn of their comprehensive vision for the river, and to see that they acknowledge that its restoration should serve as both a modern flood control system and an economic development catalyst,” said Mayor Richard Alcombright.

The Hoosic River Revival is a non-profit organization with monthly meetings open to the public the second Monday of every month at 9 am in the City Hall Conference Room.