Funding will improve habitat and shading of the East Branch under transmission line in Hinsdale
Friday, September 30, 2016
The project site: The west bank of the East Branch of the Housatonic River. The railroad is at the very top of the photo, the Eversource easement is visible at the top of the photo, and the trail crosses the center of the photo (parallel to the river). The square white sign at left is on the trail. A healthy re-growth of knotweed is visible at the center and right foreground. Photographer: Nicole Rhodes.
Hinsdale – About 2300 miles of transmission rights-of-way are managed by Eversource in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. One of these rights-of-way in Hinsdale crosses the Old Mill Trail and the East Branch of the Housatonic River, a state designated healthy cold water stream. The strip of land adjacent to the river under this transmission line is the site of a restoration project to be coordinated by the Housatonic Valley Association thanks to funding received from Eversource and the Central Berkshire Fund of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation.
At present, Eversource’s maintenance of vegetation under transmission lines is designed to keep vegetation from growing into the overhead electrical lines. Where transmission lines cross a river, this can greatly reduce the amount of river shading which is important for keeping stream temperatures cool. Cool temperatures are especially critical for native brook trout, a species whose population in recent years has declined considerably. The East Branch of the Housatonic River still has a healthy native brook trout population. When members of the Taconic Chapter of Trout Unlimited expressed concern to HVA about this stretch of river under the transmission line along the Old Mill Trail and its potential impact on the native brook trout habitat, HVA took a closer look and drafted a restoration plan.
Now, having received permission from Eversource and the Dalton Conservation Commission to proceed and the necessary funding obtained, the process to create a much healthier riparian buffer along this section of the East Branch can begin. This fall, invasive plants such as Japanese knotweed, barberry and multi-flora rose will be treated or removed.
Later this fall or in the spring 2017, selected native plants will be planted with assistance from Wahconah High School students. This improved riparian buffer, a swath of low growing trees and shrubs planted between the river and the upland area, will provide shade, better stabilize the river bank and also intercept surface runoff thereby trapping any sediment and pollutants before they enter the river. The leaf litter from the vegetation naturally deposited into the stream will provide food for many of the aquatic invertebrates which in turn will provide food for trout and other fish.
In cooperation with the new landowners, Berkshire Natural Resources Council, HVA will ensure future trail management to include manual removal of any woody seedlings that could interfere with the transmission lines, if allowed to grow. Manual maintenance of this stretch of vegetation under the transmission could eliminate any need for future herbicide application between the Old Mill Trail and the river’s edge. Over time, the improved riparian buffer and elimination of invasive species will enhance the wildlife habitat in and along the river. For more information about this East Branch restoration project, please contact the Housatonic Valley Association at 413-394-9796.
HVA is uniquely dedicated to protecting the entire Housatonic River Watershed. The watershed includes 2,000 square miles of land stretching from western Massachusetts through western Connecticut and eastern New York to Long Island Sound. HVA monitors water quality throughout the watershed, conducts educational programs, works to link preserved space with the Housatonic River Greenway of hiking and biking trails and uses computer mapping to help towns measure the impact and benefits of land use and development. HVA’s offices are in Cornwall Bridge, Connecticut; South Lee, Massachusetts; and Wassaic, New York.