$808K boosts region’s climate resilience planning

The South River overflowed its banks in Conway in July, flooding Natural Roots farm. With a $279,000 grant, Conway will focus on remediating flooding around the Pumpkin Hollow Brook and South River confluence. The town will use the money to hire engineers to study the water flows and develop an action plan.

The South River overflowed its banks in Conway in July, flooding Natural Roots farm. With a $279,000 grant, Conway will focus on remediating flooding around the Pumpkin Hollow Brook and South River confluence. The town will use the money to hire engineers to study the water flows and develop an action plan. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By BELLA LEVAVI andDOMENIC POLI

Staff Writers

Published: 09-05-2023 5:54 PM

Six Franklin County communities are getting a $808,200 funding boost to support climate resilience implementation and planning efforts.

The grants are part of a total $31.5 million that was awarded statewide as part of the latest Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Program funding round. The program provides communities with funding and technical assistance to support climate resilience planning and to implement priority actions to adapt to climate change.

“The MVP program is one of our critical tools to partner with communities and build resiliency,” Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll said in a statement. “We’re grateful to this year’s recipients for their hard work to mitigate the impacts of climate change.”

Conway

Amid renewed relevance of mitigating flooding in the town center following devastating storms in July, Conway has received a $279,000 grant. Conway’s project focuses on remediating flooding around the Pumpkin Hollow Brook and South River confluence. The town will use the money to hire engineers to study the water flows and develop an action plan for the area.

“This project has been in the works for a long time,” said Town Administrator Véronique Blanchard, noting that town officials have been discussing it for the past decade. “But the timing is interesting because we just got all the floods.”

She said the town will also use the money to conduct outreach to Conway and Ashfield residents about the morphology of the South River.

“One of the things I love about the program is towns are encouraged to communicate with citizens and look at as many different nature-based solutions as we can come up with,” Blanchard continued. “I don’t know how we would get this kind of thing done without this funding.”

Deerfield

Deerfield will use its award of $237,823 for three projects relating to water storage.

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First, the town will install a tree box filter near the Historic Deerfield Visitors Center that will aid in water filtration and decrease storm runoff. Selectboard Chairwoman Carolyn Shores Ness explained this will reduce standing water, and subsequently, minimize conditions that allow the mosquito population to breed.

Another project the grant will fund is the creation of green infrastructure, including a tree box filter and rain garden, at the Leary Lot. This plan was made with stormwater in mind as the town develops design plans for the lot. For several years, Deerfield has been planning to develop the roughly 1.5-acre asphalt and dirt lot into a larger, paved parking lot to better connect South Deerfield while creating more parking spaces.

Lastly, the grant will fund improvements to the front garden at Deerfield Elementary School.

“The building is 20 years old, so it needs a facelift,” she said. This project will include educational programs for students about holding stormwater, supporting pollinators and fostering healthy soil.

Shores Ness explained these three projects are concentrated in South Deerfield, where most of the flooding in town takes place.

“These projects all address our unique location at the confluence of the bowl,” Shores Ness said, referring to the rivers that run through Deerfield. Recent flooding resulted in “an alarming display of our infrastructure,” she added.

“The MVP grant was timely and addressed how important water management is,” Shores Ness said.

Buckland

An award of $160,000 goes to the continuation of Clesson Brook watershed resiliency projects in Buckland.

“These funds will build off the study of the Clesson Brook watershed that we did in [fiscal year 2022] and FY23,” Buckland Town Administrator Heather Butler wrote in an email. “There were a number of priority areas identified in that study and we hope to use these funds to select several of those and move them through the engineering and permitting stages of development.”

After Tropical Storm Irene and other rainstorms, the town encountered several issues around flooding, erosion and failed culverts in the Clesson Brook watershed. Buckland has since begun a multi-year project to improve its resiliency to these hazards, and has received several grants — including MVP grants from previous funding rounds — to support its efforts.

In an email, Butler explained the town hopes to revive its MVP Committee to “move this process forward.” The group will also be instrumental in community outreach, she added.

Montague

Of the $95,000 Montague is receiving, Assistant Town Administrator Walter Ramsey said $45,000 will go toward hiring a consultant to help update the town’s MVP plan. The remaining dollars will pay for a portion of one of the projects that will be suggested through an updated plan.

“The nice [addition] to this is ... we get some funding to implement one of the recommended projects,” he said.

Ramsey said the Montague Planning & Conservation Department will oversee the development of the updated MVP plan. He said residents and professionals will be consulted to try to determine how the town can be better prepared for emergencies.

He mentioned the town was one of the first to become MVP-designated in 2018.

Leyden and Bernardston

The neighboring communities decided to apply for the state grant together because they have a lot the same terrain and geographic features, and because grant managers David Pomerantz, Leyden’s co-emergency management director, and John Lepore, who owns Future Lands Design in Bernardston, have complementary skill sets.

Pomerantz noted the two towns share policing services, mutual aid and a regional school. In fact, centuries ago, they made up the single municipality of Falltown before becoming Leyden and Bernardston.

The towns will share $179,200 for the identification, assessment and mitigation of multi-town wildfire hazards.

“It’s great for a lot of different reasons,” Pomerantz said, adding that high-risk vulnerabilities consist of drought, fire and flooding.

Lepore said much of the money will be spent on landscape assessment using a computer system that captures, stores, checks and displays data related to positions on Earth’s surface. He explained the system will find slopes with roughly 15% steepness, north-to-southeast exposure and close proximity to residences. It can also find places that could supply water for emergency firefighting.

Lepore and Pomerantz also said they will look into established evacuation routes and work to determine if secondary ones are needed.

They both plan to recruit citizen scientists for certain tasks, such as using drones to take aerial photographs. They are open to finding citizen scientists outside of Leyden and Bernardston, too. Anyone who is interested should send an email to Lepore at futurelandsdesigns@gmail.com.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-930-4120. Reach Bella Levavi at 413-930-4579 or blevavi@recorder.com.