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A portion of Green River Road (Route 43) set for rehabilitation by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

Williamstown Con Comm OKs Route 43 Paving Project

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Conservation Commission on Thursday gave the green light for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to improve a 2.3-mile stretch of Route 43 in South Williamstown.
 
The portion of the highway in question, known as Green River Road, runs along the river from Five Corners intersection with Route 7 north and east to Hopper Road.
 
MassDOT is looking to preserve and rehabilitate pavement, install pavement milling mulch in 2-foot wide strips on each side of the road, replace and repair guard rails, resurface four existing pull-off areas and remove drainage system sediment.
 
Among other things, the roadwork will address the potholes in the roadway, a particular problem during winter storms.
 
The Con Comm approval was needed because the work will be conducted because of its proximity to the water resource area.
 
The MassDOT work plan was reviewed by the Department of Environmental Protection and the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, which advised the local commission that sufficient care would be taken to preserve the resource.
 
"Based on a review of the information that was provided and the information that is currently contained in our database, the Division has determined that this project, as currently proposed, will not adversely affect the actual Resource Area Habitat of state-protected rare wildlife species," Fisheries and Wildlife Assistant Director Everose Schlüter told the Con Comm in a letter dated March 4.
 
At Thursday's meeting — held on the Zoom video conferencing platform because of the closure of Town Hall out of concern for the COVID-19 pandemic — the commissioners ordered one alteration to the plan laid out by MassDOT.
 
Based on the Con Comm's comments at an earlier hearing on MassDOT's Notice of Intent, the agency had specified native vegetation it would plant along the project in order to enhance existing forested areas and provide "slope stability, shading and erosion" control to protect the river.
 
On Thursday, Commissioner Henry Art, an emerita professor of environmental studies and biology at Williams College, suggested that the state choose different species to plant.
 
"I appreciate the fact that these are relatively native species," Art said. "But I would suggest that we not have white oak or redbud on the list.
 
"The other ones are just fine. White oak is more of an upland species that really likes dry soils. Redbud isn't quite ready for this region yet. It probably works fine in eastern Mass, but we're a little far north. Even with climate change coming our way, I think it's a little premature to be planting that."
 
A representative from MassDOT who participated in the hearing meeting assented, and the five commissioners in attendance voted unanimously to approve the order of conditions with Art's suggested change.
 
The order will remain in place for three years, meaning that the MassDOT will not need to come back to the Conservation Commission for review if the road work begins during that time.
 
In other business on Thursday, the Con Comm also OKed a plan by Oblong Road resident Daniel Holland to relocate utility poles on Berlin Road.
 
Holland was before the commission to seek a negative determination of applicability of the Wetlands Protection Act because the work is planned in the buffer zone for Berlin Brook.
 
The commissioners voted unanimously that the work could proceed under the town's standard set of conditions, including that erosion controls be in place during the work.
 
The Con Comm also Thursday continued three public hearings until its April meeting, including a MassDOT Notice of Intent related to the bike path planned from North Street (Route 7) to Main Street (Route 2) and an NOI for a perimeter fence project at North Adams' Harriman & West Airport that has property extending into Williamstown.

Tags: conservation commission,   MassDOT,   paving,   

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County's Colleges Train Workers for Post-Pandemic Economy

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The county's institutions of higher education are ready to do their part to help their students navigate their way through a post-COVID-19 economy.
 
On Friday, the presidents of Berkshire Community College, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and Williams College and the provost of Bard College at Simon's Rock participated in a virtual town hall hosted by 1Berkshire.
 
Johnathan Butler led the hourlong conversation, which focused largely on how colleges are adapting to the current closure of their physical campuses and making plans for the fall 2020 semester.
 
But at one point Butler asked how the schools are situated to help address workforce development needs at a time when Berkshire County has nearly 30 percent unemployment.
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