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A concrete panel in the flood control chute on the Mass MoCA campus collapsed recently.
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An adjacent panel is tipping outward from the wall.
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Looking west over the South Branch as it runs through the campus.
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North Adams Plans Emergency Fix of Collapsed Flood Chute Panel

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city is planning an emergency repair of the 70-year-old flood control chute near Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.

One of the large concrete panels collapsed into the Hoosic River recently exposing the banking along the foundation of the museum's massive Building 6 near the convergence of the North and South branches and a second is precariously tilting outward.

According to an email on Thursday apprising the Hoosic River Revival group about the collapse, Conservation Commissioner Andrew J. Kawczak said he and Chairman Jason Moran had met with the Mass MoCA officals and personnel with the Department of Public Works and contractors to review the problem area.

Mayor Richard Alcombright on Friday said a preliminary engineer is assessing the site for an emergency repair with excavation contractor D.R. Billings Inc.

"Right now, we're going to spend and go back to the council for money," the mayor said. "What they're suggesting is we need to put some structural steel as cribbing from the wall here to the wall here, and in front and in back ... We've got keep those two panels in place before they go ...

"The problem is they can't get in there because the water's too high. They're afraid if they put rocks in there they're just kind of going to move."

The panel is believed to have failed because of saturated soils from the recent heavy precipitation, the aged infrastructure and runoff from the building and excavations related the museum's $65 million expansion and renovation project. The plan is to fill that section with rip rap and concrete blocks to hold everything together until the Army Corps of Engineers can address it.

"After we get this stabilized, we're going to have to get someone from the Army Corps out here to have a conversation with us how we keep this safe and productive over time and how it can be funded," the mayor said.

The Corps built the chutes in 1950 to contain a Hoosic River that frequently overflowed its banks in what was then a densely populated downtown area. It took 11 years and $18.8 million to dredge and bank some 6 miles of river and contain more than a mile of it with concrete walls.

Several years ago, another panel collapsed in the Willow Dell area and a section near the Marshall Street bridge by Mass MoCA was damaged after a significant rainstorm in 2005. The repairs to that section was part of a $500,000 federal earmark; the Willow Dell panel has not been fixed.  

The mayor is hoping this temporary fix will be only about $2,5000 to $30,000.

"The good news is we haven't seen any more real deterioration of that coming out ... but it also is the idea that the panel above of it is in danger," said Alcombright. "We want to get it up and stabilized real quick and then what we're going to have to do is figure out what the permanent fix to that section on the wall and if we can do the similar thing on Willow Dell."

The river restoration is seeking to remove some of the concrete chutes. The hope is to reconnect the city to the Hoosic River while protecting it through more natural and environmentally sustainable waterways.

The mayor is concerned that the Hoosac River Revival's replacement plans will not be able to keep pace with the aging and failing infrastructure. It's taken years for the group just to get to design and testing for the first phase of the $20 million South Branch project because of funding and permitting.

"What are these panels going to look like in five years, 10 years?" Alcombright said. "It's a city priority to sit down with the Army Corps of Engineers and figure out what is the plan ... It can't be a city priority for funding. ...

"We're not concerned like the sky is falling but we're concerned enough now with this other panel falling out that we have to have a conversation with the government and say what's next? What are we going to do?"


Write-thru of an article published on April 6, 2017.

Tags: flooding,   Hoosic River,   

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