NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Conservation Commission has continued a public hearing on Berkshire Gas' plans to renovate its propane storage facility on South State Street to allow time for a state agency to respond.
The company is planning to pour new pads and foundations, modify its piping and connections and make overall upgrades to the peak-shaving facility. Part of the site is within the 100- and 200-foot buffer zones of the Hoosic River and there is a 100-foot wetland buffer along the eastern side of the site.
Berkshire Gas submitted a notice of intent "for disturbance withing these resource areas" to the commission and the state Department of Environmental Protection.
"This site and North Adams is one of our six gate stations, meaning where we buy gas from Tennessee," said Travis McCarthy, Berkshire Gas' production supervisor for pressure regulation and corrosion, at Tuesday's meeting. "It is also a peak-shaving facility, where we, in the cold weather when we don't have enough capacity, or it's too expensive on the market, we mix propane with air injected into the system to supplement Northern Berkshire County.
"This facility has been in the works or it has been it has been there since the '60s. This is outdated equipment, it's time to upgrade it and make it more reliable."
The facility currently contains a utility building, six tanks, parking lot and defunct rail spur along with the required equipment and piping to operate.
Engineers from Fuss & O'Neill who made the site designs said no new areas are being disturbed and that nothing would extend into the resource areas. The only changes to impervious areas would be the addition of a concrete pad for the gas mixture tank.
McCarthy said mixture unit is currently inside a building but the new one will be outside.
"This mixture unit is kind of like a construction con box, almost like one of those metal containers, roughly 12-by-25-by-10 feet tall," he said. "And it's been retrofitted with piping in there that takes in regulated air and propane, and mix it together at a specific ratio and flow rate and injection into our system according to how we dial it in to deliver safe and reliable energy to North Berkshire County."
The plan is to complete the renovations by the fall heating system, along the same timeline as last year's upgrades to a similar facility in Pittsfield.
The commission asked the engineers to complete questions from the DEP in written form rather than answering at the meeting and recommended holding off on a determination until the application to the state's Natural Heritage program is approved.
The commission voted to continue the hearing to July 16. The project was to go before the Planning Board on Monday night.
In other business, the commissioners voted to give a negative determination of 4 (work done in a buffer zone that will not alter the area) to Lincoln Forestry Co. for installing a temporary culvert on West Mountain Road.
Company President George Lozier, who has done consulting for the city for 28 years, said he had been asked to do a timber sale for a property owner on West Mountain Road, which is not maintained.
"Over the years, all the damage to the road exposed the culvert and then somebody just threw it off to the side," he said. "So what we want to do is put that culvert back in and bring some logs down that road over the culvert. But the state forester says we can't do it without a permit from the board."
Lozier said an intermittent stream now runs down middle of the roadway and is washing it out. Much of the road is no longer passable except by all-terrain vehicles.
Commissioner Andrew J. Kawczak thought the request odd because forestry normally has much more leeway on such issues because it is considered an agricultural industry. He asked why a temporary corduroy bridge wasn't being considered.
"Because he said that the stream channel needs to be repaired so that it's deep enough so that the water won't go down the road," said Lozier.
The commission discussed if this would set a precedent and that Lozier would have to go to the city as well for approval and if any change would then affect any property owners below the road. Lozier said all the water drains into a gorge below the road so a temporary culvert shouldn't make any difference.
"We can provide temporary permission as long as it's removed at the end of the logging," Chairman Jason Moran said. "If it's not a regulated stream, we could do a negative-4 but it would need to be removed at the end of the project."
Going through a comprehensive permitting process to solve the problem wouldn't be worth his time, he said. "It's surprising that DCR, or whoever it is, is all of a sudden asking you for something like this when normally they just go ahead and do it."
According to information he had received, the Department of Conservation and Recreation foresters approve temporary crossings for logging operations while only permanent ones go before local conservation commissions.
Lozier said the logging plans have already been through Natural Heritage and approved by the state and the wetlands have been mapped out.
"I don't feel too uncomfortable with something temporary," said Kawczak. "It's not the ideal situation but having seen logging operations before without this issue, they're all ugly, but they do perform a function and wetlands do recover if there is damage, with few exceptions."
The commission voted for the negative determination with the condition the culvert be removed once the logging is completed.
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Mohawk Trail Woodlands, Forest Service Team Up on Conservation
By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
BRPC's Tom Matuszko asks advisory board members to raise their hands as FRCOG's Executive Director Linda Dunlavy waits to speak.
CHARLEMONT, Mass. — A shared stewardship agreement signed Thursday will bring U.S. Forest Service expertise to the state while keeping hundreds of thousands of acres of forestland in state and private hands.
The Mohawk Trail Woodland Partnership encompasses 361,941 acres of state and private land across 21 communities in the northwestern corner of the state. About 28 percent of that land is permanently protected. The partnership will enhance conservation and forest research and provide technical support for businesses that depend on the region's natural resources such as tourism and forestry products.
"I am from this region, it is a part of the state that is near and dear to my heart," said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides at signing held at Berkshire East Mountain Resort. "Something that is a priority to the governor is making sure that this region can continue to have economic security and opportunity for people, but also that connectedness to the landscape and that rootedness in the special places that make up Western Massachusetts."
Theoharides said the state is losing about 65 acres of forestland a day to development — housing, parking lots, and commercial establishments — and it's not coming back.
The Mohawk Trail Woodland Partnership encompasses 361,941 acres of state and private land across 21 communities in the northwestern corner of the state. About 28 percent of that land is permanently protected. click for more
The council put the sale of Sullivan School to the newly organized Berkshire Advanced Manufacturing Training and Education Center, or BAMTEC, on pause last week even as it approved the sale of two other city properties.
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