WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The town is reviewing bids to conduct a riverbank stabilization on the Hoosic River near the junction of North Street and Syndicate Road.
On Thursday evening, the Conservation Commission issued an emergency authorization to conduct the work to address a problem that pushed its way near the top of the town’s priority list in December and intensified with this week’s rains.
“We went down today, and it was decidedly worse than it was yesterday,” town conservation agent Andrew Groff told the commissioners.
Groff said there is currently 90 linear feet of erosion along that stretch of the river, and the land is being taken away “at a precipitous rate.”
Arthur and Wendy Campbell, whose North Street property has been eroding into the river since 2019, called the Williamstown Police when a Christmas Eve storm last December took away a large chunk of the bank and threatened to uncover one of the sewer lines that runs through their property.
Of immediate concern to the town is the danger to those lines, one of which carries waste from North Adams to the Northern Berkshire Solid Waste Management District facility in Williamstown.
Town meeting in June authorized $203,000 in the town’s fiscal 2022 capital plan to address the erosion. On Thursday morning, the town opened “some quality bids,” Groff told the commission. Interim Town Manager Charlie Blanchard reported to the Select Board that the bids ranged from $107,000 to $242,950 for work that the town estimated to cost $135,000 in its request for proposals.
Department of Public Works Director Chris Lemoine on Friday said the town received six bids and hopes to award the contract next week.
“We would like to have [the commission’s] authorization for DPW’s contractor to get this underway as soon as Aug. 2 to complete work designed by [Guntlow & Associates] during what we hope will be a low-flow period,” Groff said. “They will be placing 1,000-pound pieces of riprap starting at the river bottom and going up the bank to protect the two major sewer lines.”
Groff said the town’s plan for the work has been submitted to the commonwealth’s Department of Environmental Protection, the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, and the Army Corps of Engineers, which has jurisdiction over the river.
The Corps has done similar work near that stretch of river in the past, but it is incumbent on the town to deal with the urgent stabilization work this time around.
“I went to [the Army Corps] in January,” Groff said. “I hoped they would extend the project they did in 2002 … to the north and agree to consider this part of that work. And I think they said their funding source was six to seven years out to get on their work list.
“We were just down there today, and the river was at 7 feet. It’s pretty clear we don’t have that kind of time.”
The five commissioners at Thursday’s meeting voted unanimously to grant the emergency certification required for the project to go forward.
In other business on Thursday, the Con Comm voted 5-0 to OK an herbicide application on a private pond at 1035 Green River Road.
In a continuation of a hearing opened at the commission’s last meeting, Engineer Charlie LaBatt of Guntlow addressed the concerns raised by Con Comm members the first time it considered the request.
One was that nutrient runoff from a nearby hillside was contributing to the problem of the non-native invasive aquatic plant that Herbert Allen wishes to address.
“I talked with Mr. Galusha who mows and farms that area and maintains the property for Mr. Allen,” LaBatt said. “None of that upslope watershed gets fertilized. It just gets mowed and maintained. Probably, as a result of that, this is the first time we’ve proposed any sort of mitigation of weekends on this pond ever.
“If the fear is: Is it excess nutrients? I don’t think so. If it had been that way, we probably would have been in front of you multiple times in the last 20 years.”
That said, the weed is an invasive species, and LaBatt said while the hope is the herbicide application is a “one-time thing,” there will be a need to monitor and maintain the site.
“I don’t know how [the weed] migrates,” he said. “Most likely, it’s on the feet of ducks because we’re not fed by a stream. It’s not carried from an upstream pond or something like that. We’re hopeful [the herbicide treatment] is something that doesn’t need to be periodic. Like other non-native invasives, combating that is a maintenance thing, as the commission knows.”
The Con Comm voted 5-0 to permit the herbicide application with two special conditions: that Allen come back to the commission two years after application to review its efficacy and that he create a 50-foot wide buffer strip of land that is not mowed upslope from the pond.
The discussion of the pond on Green River Road dovetailed with Con Comm Chair Tim Carr’s plan to use Thursday’s meeting for the beginning of a discussion of goals for the commission in 2021-22.
Carr said he wants to see the commission be more proactive about conservation issues rather than just reacting to the requests it receives.
“An example came up this evening,” Carr said. “Ponds and how can we proactively think about how that resource in our community, of which we have many, can be better managed by the town. Might there be ways to better educate ourselves about pond management? Is that something the [Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions] could help us with? Could we do a study and come with a plan to propose to the town?
“That’s an example of something we can put on the agenda for the year ahead and build in time at each meeting to have a discussion about.”
Carr asked his fellow commissioners to reflect on the language of Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 40, Section 8C, the enabling legislation that governs the Con Comm and think about what projects they would like to see the panel undertake in the year ahead. He said they could continue the discussion about proactivity at the commission’s next meeting on July 22.
Tags: conservation commission, Hoosic River,