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Adams Selectmen hear from residents affected by the last month's storms.

Adams Officials Say Infrastructure Needed to Deal With Flooding

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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ADAMS, Mass. — The Selectmen warned residents attending a workshop meeting to discuss the recent flooding that the town's infrastructure isn't up to handling the larger storms hitting the area.
 
"The goal of this meeting is for the residents to come up and ask questions and I am sure you have many questions," Selectman John Duval said last Wednesday. "We will try to answer your questions if we can."
 
Two rainstorms on Sept. 12 and 18 overwhelmed some of the town's flood control system. Flooding affected the Lime, Davis, North Summer, and Charles street areas damaging people's property and causing over $2 million in damage to public infrastructure.  
 
Because only Adams was hit by the storms and no state or federal state of emergencies were declared, there is little emergency funding the town can use. On Oct. 3 the Selectmen declared a state of emergency which will allow them to deficit spend.
 
Although state representatives have asked for $1.9 million from the state supplemental budget to help with these repairs, the town needs to begin repairs right away before snowfall.  
 
"A lot has been happening over the past few weeks," Duval said. "We started to identify impacted areas in town from those two storms and they are all in different states of devastation."
 
Out of the four residents who addressed the board, Karen Rose spoke the longest. Rose, who represented her mother-in-law who lives on Lime Street, asked why the declaration was made a few weeks after the storm.
 
"I understand the logistics but what I am suggesting is this seemed after the fact," Rose said. "It was only at the meeting last week when you decided to move forward with that."
 
Interim Town Administrator Donna Cesan said they did not make the declaration immediately because they were busy trying to control the flooding.  
 
"To be quite frank we were a little busy. We were focused on trying to minimize the damage that was happening both to public infrastructure and in some cases private property," Cesan said.
 
Duval added that it wasn't a matter of simply declaring a state of emergency, but the town had to follow a process.
 
"We have to follow the rules and the processes of the state and the federal government," he said. "We can't do magic we have to follow rules ... we can't just say it is a state of emergency without having the information to back it."
 
Rose then turned her questions to possible causes of the flooding and felt retention ponds constructed to support the East Road Solar Array was not doing their job and amplified the issue. 
 
"I personally have visited those areas ... and found the retention ponds empty," she said. "There was no water in them and there should have been. The ground that I was standing on was completely saturated."
 
She also pointed to Planning Board minutes from 2013 when there was some discussion on the retention ponds and she asked who was responsible for maintaining them.
 
Cesan said she did not know off hand and would have to research the Planning Board minutes but typically an order of conditions would be tagged onto any approval outlining a maintenance schedule.
 
Cesan added that storms are getting larger and more frequent and the town's system was not built to handle this kind of deluge. She said the town needs to undergo a complete engineering study to determine what the problem is and how to fix it.   
 
Duval added that he did not want to guess where the issues might lie but to have a comprehensive study, so the town has the facts.
 
"We are going to have to find out the reason this is happening because we don't want to have to rebuild bridges," he said. "We want to deal with the problem permanently."
 
State Rep. John Barrett III, who attended the meeting, said he and state Sen. Adams Hinds are trying to secure $1.9 million for immediate repairs, however, without concrete numbers, it would be hard to amend this amount to secure more funds.
 
"We do believe it is related to climate change and the House and Senate put in a great deal of money for new seawall in the eastern part of the state. That is a direct result of climate change and the same thing is happening here," he said. "But there has to be a complete engineering study looking at of all of the areas ... we want to fix this permanently."
 
Selectman Joseph Nowak, who has a background in environmental science, said the fix, in his opinion, is not going to be easy.
 
"I thought what you could do to make this watershed more manageable and contain it and honestly I couldn't really think of anything," he said. "It would be costly, and I don't think it would change the demeanor of the watershed."
 
Nowak said during the Greylock Ramble on Columbus Day he instead hiked the Southwick Watershed off Old Florida Road that is believed to be at capacity during storms and causing many of the issues in Adams.
 
He spotlighted the changes he saw in the topography, some caused by nature other by off-road vehicles. 
 
Nowak came back to "slumping" frequently in his dissertation and said water was undercutting land and displacing siltation. He said he found recently turned over trees from water forcing its way through.
 
He said this issue will not improve.
 
"I don't want to be a defeatist, but this is a wedged valley with no ability to drain other than into the Southwick Brook and that is why over geological time it has continued to cut and cut," he said. "Now we have complete banks that have fallen into the water and that won't get better ... with heavy rain, we will continue to get deposition in the stream." 
 
He also noted that the area contains hard rock that only increases the velocity of the water at it comes down the mountain. With so much siltation going into the river, he said, it has little carrying capacity left because it is filled up with sediment which means few opportunities for the water to settle.
 
"There is no ability for water to do anything but flow down through there ... the river has no carrying capacity left because it is filled up with sediment and the is very little time for the water to settle and move along," he said. "There is so much siltation that comes off this mountain that the hydrology will push the water until it gets to a flat area where it will continue to accumulate."
 
Nowak also read a deed from 1798 that stated the water was used to power a lumber mill in the area for generations. He also read a Transcript article from 1977 that stated county engineers who were working in Adams had to leave what they were working on Adams to attend another job in Pittsfield.
 
While they were in Adams, they were determining how to drain East Road without sending water into the already overworked Southwick Brook.
 
"This problem goes back quite a long time -- it was harnessed for water power in colonial times and has been a thorn in the side of people in the area as far back as 1977 when the selectmen were looking at the same problem," he said. "So apparently nothing has been done to rectify it to the point where it wouldn't happen again."
 
The Selectmen did note that flooding no longer seems to be an issue on North Summer Street. Selectman James Bush said the town repaired a collapsed manhole and cleaned out the system.
 
"Last few storms, I traveled down the road and there was no flooding at all and we have had some pretty heavy rain were we would still see some residual water," he said.
 
Before closing the meeting, the board announced that although there are virtually no larger grants to alleviate personal property damage, residents can go through the Council on Aging and possibly receive smaller grants through the Salvation Army, the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation program and the United Way.  
 
Cesan said there was discussion about creating a betterment district within which the town makes these repairs to people's property and they repay the town in taxes over a long period of time, however, this could not be done until the town undergoes an engineering study.
 
Duval asked that the residents keep an open line of communication with the town can continue to work alongside the selectmen.
 
"We have to correct these issues and we have to get it right because it is going to happen again," Duval said. "We can't afford something like this to continue so keep up the communication."
 

 


Tags: infrastructure improvements,   severe weather,   storm damage,   

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Community Remembers the Fallen on Memorial Day

Staff Reports
ADAMS, Mass. — Brothers William and Earle Charbonneau joined the Navy together on Sept. 11, 1942, served together and died together when their ship was torpedoed off Italy 80 years ago this May. 
 
"Our mother was their youngest sister, she talked about them all the time because they were 19 and 20 and she was 18," said Tammy McCarthy. "She talked about them all the time. She said the shock of that happening turned her hair white overnight. She dyed her hair ever since then."
 
The brothers were remembered during Memorial Day services on Monday morning, held in the Memorial Building.
 
"These heroes left the comfort of their homes, their families and loved ones, their friends to serve a greater purpose to preserve American way of life," said master of ceremonies Frederick Lora. "Freedom is not free and each generation must answer freedom's call and its those who paid the ultimate sacrifice that we remember today."
 
The observances included prayers from Deacon Greg LaFreniere, the reading of the Gettysburg Address and of "In Flanders Fields" by Hoosac Valley High School students Talia Rehill and Addison Colvin, respectively. The Hoosac Valley band played the national anthem and Rachel Scarpitto and Corey Charron taps and echo. 
 
District Veterans Agent Mitchell Kiel said Memorial Day is a day to honor and celebrate those who lost their lives in service to the nation. But "after these somber reminders of the meaning of the day ... how are you supposed to celebrate?" he asked. 
 
"They fought for the freedom that allows us to celebrate," Kiel said. "Because our families honor and remember their family members."
 
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