NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Judith Grinnell, president of The Hoosic River Revival Coalition and others updated the board on the group's project to transform the river from its ancient concrete chutes into a "clean, flood-controlled Hoosic River that is aesthetically pleasing."
Mark Arigoni, landscape architect of Milone & MacBroom explains the idea of diverting the south branch of the Hoosic River into a nearby wetland.
Cindy Delpapa, a river ecologist with the state's Division of Ecological Restoration and co-chair of the coalition, said the current, concrete chutes were built in the
1930s 1950s by the Army Corps of Engineers to divert river water quickly.
"The chutes are a mixed blessing," Delpapa said. "They help prevent floods but they do degrade the river."
Delpapa also mentioned that these aging chutes are expected to take a "pounding" if the pattern of more frequent and extreme storms continues.
"So they served their purpose, but they are getting old," Delpapa said. "They are made of concrete. Concrete doesn't last forever."
Grinnell noted that there is also no timetable on how long the aging chutes are expected to last and would then need to be replaced.
Six months ago, the coalition signed a contract with a civic work consultant firm Milone & MacBroom
. Two consultants, Jim MacBroom, senior vice president and fluvial engineer and Mark Arigoni, landscape architect, were on hand to share the coalition's vision.
MacBroom explained that the shape of the chutes can be changed, as long as the river maintains the conveyance of water and flood control standards, sentiment and ecology (which is currently non-existent).
MacBroom said there were three key ideas to the project — to replace the rectangular shape of the chutes to feature more modern urban channels with slopes and steps, to present an ecological opportunity and to have a dam-like system in some portions of the river so as the water rises the chute lowers, forcing the excess water underground.
Arigoni shared some graphics of potential projects. One project would relink the Hoosic River with the wetland between the river and Curran Highway. The current flood chute would still be there for use in case of heavy rainwater.
Although not all areas of the chute will be available for readjustment, the group hopes to improve the surrounding properties.
"What we do have is the ability to enhance immediately adjacent to the floodwall," Arigoni said.
City Councilor John Barrett III voiced concern about the project cost compared to its benefits and was skeptical about its job-producing potential. He also mentioned the need for private investors.
"Water appeals to a wide range of people of all socio-economic levels, all ages," Grinnell said, noting that the studies she examined praises benefits, such as river-related festivals. "So I believe it will attract both our residents and visitors in a more general way...than in the past."
A local resident also voiced his concerns over future flood control and his property, as well as the communication between the coalition and the property owners.
"I'm all in favor of fixing it, but I don't want to lose my yard," said James Burdick of River Street. Burdick said two workers approached his property to measure the flood wall, which he didn't mind, but would have liked have been notified prior, and for future visits.
The Hoosic River Coalition also has a goal to eventually connect Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, downtown and the river via bike and walking paths, in similar fashion to the Ashuwillticook Trail.
The coalition plans to continue holding meetings, including another large community meeting in the spring and host fundraisers. So far the 4-year-old coalition has spent more than $60,000 on the project, with much of the money coming from grants, the state government, businesses and others. Grinnell said the coalition has no current estimation for the project.
In other business:
► After City Councilor Alan Marden briefed the council about the Oct. 1 Finance Committee meeting
, which addressed back-tax collections and salaries, Barrett argued that the City Council illegally changed salaries. Barrett said the salaries are determined by ordinances, not by budget.
"This City Council voted a salary, beginning on Jan. 1, for city councilors [to get] $1,500," Barrett said. "And that's a fact, and if you go otherwise, don't take it, 'cause you'll be paying it back."
Regardless, the council moved to file the report and then approved the tax payment plan.
► Absentee ballots are available at the Clerk's Office during office hours, 8 a.m. through 4:30 p.m. from Monday through Friday. If you are unable to make it in person, you may have the absentee ballot mailed to you, but the ballot must be mailed back by Oct. 27.
► Mayor Richard Alcombright announced that Williams College donated a 1968 Zamboni to the city, which will be utilized as a back-up Zamboni for the Peter W. Foote Vietnam Veterans Memorial Skating Rink. The propane-powered Zamboni has recently been refurbished.
► The city's Management Information System Director Kathleen Wall won an iPad 2 from Ayacht Technology Solutions during a randomly drawn door prize. Since Massachusetts ethic laws do not allow Wall to keep it, the iPad 2 was donated to the city.
► City Councilor Lisa Blackmer, on the behalf of absent Councilor Keith Bona, said Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and the community will team up to clean up Hillside Cemetery from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 13. If anyone is interested in helping and needs a ride, meet at the parking lot behind Freel Library at 9:30 a.m. For more information, call Spencer Moser at MCLA at 413-662-5251.