The secretary also met with local officials during her trip to Western Mass, including a roundtable on Friday in Pittsfield.
WINDSOR, Mass. — The town of Windsor has been awarded $165,000 to replace a culvert on the East Branch of the Westfield River. Windsor's grant is largest of 16 awards targeting culvert replacement and river health and totaling $932,000.
Secretary of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Kathleen Theoharides announced the grants at an event last week at Windsor State Forest, then visited the sites of two culvert projects in Windsor and Cummington that received grants. Also receiving funds were Clarksburg and Sheffield.
"Deteriorated and undersized culverts can result in road failures during storms, preventing residents from getting to school, work, and medical services. These culverts also prevent fish and wildlife from getting to high-quality habitats, which are critically important as the climate warms," the secretary said. "By helping cities and towns replace culverts, we can help protect our infrastructure, residents and natural resources from the impacts of climate change."
Windsor will replace an undersized and deteriorated culvert on the East Branch with a larger, safer structure that meets road-stream crossing standards. The upper Westfield River and tributaries provide some of the best coldwater and fluvial fish communities in the commonwealth. The new culvert will enable fish and wildlife to access these high-quality habitats. Upgrading this culvert enhances public safety, storm resiliency and ecological conditions. The grant will fund construction work.
Clarksburg received $41,000 to conduct field data collection and analysis, design and engineering, and permitting for a culvert replacement on Bear Swamp Brook. Upgrading the culvert allows coldwater species to access to critical coldwater streams, particularly important as the climate warms and stream temperature increases. The road also serves a primary emergency access route.
Sheffield received $54,000 for final engineering and design and permitting for a culvert replacement on Dry Brook. The current structure results in frequent roadway flooding and repair costs. Upgrading this culvert will improve Sheffield’s infrastructure and storm resilience, reduce maintenance costs, and improve passage for fish and wildlife, including the federally listed bog turtle.
And Cummington got $80,000 to complete design and engineering tasks for the culvert replacement on the North Branch of the Swift River. Upgrading the culvert will enhance public safety, resiliency, and ecological conditions and maintain economic connectivity. The North Branch Swift River is a tributary to the Wild & Scenic Westfield River, a coldwater stream that provides critical habitat for state-listed fish only found in Massachusetts in the upper tributaries of the Westfield River.
"I am grateful to Secretary Theoharides for making this announcement in Windsor and for recognizing the importance of partnership between the state and our small, rural communities," said state Rep. Paul Mark of Peru. "Rural towns often face tough situations and tough choices when it comes to budgeting. Every state investment we are able to help secure goes such a long way towards sustainability and the long term health of our region. This grant will be put to good use and will help improve our environment for natural habitat and nature lovers."
Nearly half of Massachusetts' more than 25,000 small bridges and culverts act as barriers to fish and wildlife because they are undersized or poorly positioned. Undersized culverts can also present a serious risk to public safety. As high intensity rainfall becomes more frequent and severe because of climate change, culvert bottlenecks can cause flood waters to overtop roads, resulting in washouts and road closures. Installing culverts that meet the Massachusetts Stream Crossing Standards allows rivers to flow unrestricted and with lower risk of flood damage. Recent studies have found that culverts designed to meet these Standards are often less expensive than in-kind culvert replacements over the lifespan of the structure.
Fourteen of the 16 grants were provided through the Division of Ecological Restoration's Culvert Replacement Municipal Assistance Grant Program, which helps municipalities replace undersized and deteriorating culverts with crossings that meet improved design standards for fish and wildlife passage, river health, and storm resiliency. Grants to the town of Boxford and Trout Unlimited/town of Chester were procured separately by the DER.
"Every town in Massachusetts is dealing with undersized or failing culverts, which threaten the integrity of our roads and damage sensitive river habitats," said Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Ron Amidon. "River restoration through culvert replacement improves water quality, expands habitat for cold water fish and other aquatic life, and enhances fishing opportunities for anglers."
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