The bend in the Housatonic River next to the Sheffield Covered Bridge is a popular place to walk and put canoes in the river. The Housatonic Valley Association has received a state grant of nearly $200,000 to fund projects promoting climate resilience and waterway restoration projects.
By Clarence Fanto, The Berkshire Eagle
To confront climate change in the Berkshires, the Housatonic Valley Association is using a state grant worth nearly $200,000 to work with local and regional partners.
The goal is to maintain and enhance climate resilience, wildlife habitats and the region’s green viewscape by restoring the health of degraded aquatic ecosystems, according to Kelley Hall, a manager with HVA.
The Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Ecological Restoration awarded the funding through its Regional Restoration Partnerships Program.
That program helps nonprofits and regional planning agencies advance ecological and aquatic restoration work, according to an HVA announcement.
The grant will support the Berkshire Clean, Cold, and Connected Restoration Partnership, which works to keep the Hoosic, Housatonic, and Farmington River watersheds healthy and thriving, the HVA stated. The partnership is one of only regional programs in the state to receive the funding.
“That’s a testament to the outstanding natural heritage of Berkshire County,” Hall wrote in the HVA announcement.
Strong partnerships involving the state, regional organizations, communities and nonprofits “are critical for helping people and nature adapt to climate change,” said Beth Lambert, director of Fish and Game’s Division of Ecological Restoration. “The Berkshire Partnership catalyzes and supports river and wetland restoration projects throughout the region.”
The funding supports a full-time HVA Restoration Coordinator to promote collaboration between partners such as the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, the Berkshire Environmental Action Team, the Hoosic River Watershed Association, the Farmington River Watershed Association and Trout Unlimited.
The goal is to help complete stream and wetland restoration work, which builds resilience for species and habitats as well as infrastructure and property threatened by climate change, the HVA announcement pointed out.
The work includes dam removal, stream-side buffer plantings, in-stream habitat enhancement, floodplain reconnection, polluted stormwater capture and road-stream crossing replacements. “While bridges and culverts make it possible for people to get from one side of the stream to the other, some are outdated, restricting waterflow and threatening wildlife migration,” HVA explained.
“Our warming climate threatens both built and natural environments, and we’ve worked hard to find cost-effective projects that help ecosystems and communities adapt to this ‘new normal,’ which is impossible to ignore this year,” said Mike Jastremski, HVA’s Watershed Conservation Director.
He noted that the state’s funding will help move those projects forward, identify others for the future. “It is the capacity-building glue needed to align the excellent work the partners already do towards our shared vision of healthy streams and wetlands in Berkshire County,” Jastremski stated.
HVA has completed road-stream crossing management plans for Egremont, Richmond and Great Barrington, and played a key role in helping all three receive funding support totaling nearly $160,000.
Overall, the Department of Fish and Game awarded $6.4 million in grants to help communities prepare for major storms, strengthen climate-ready infrastructure, restore flood storage capacities, and protect fisheries, wildlife and river habitats.
HVA, based in Cornwall Bridge, Conn., is the conservation organization dedicated to the entire 2,000 square-mile Housatonic Watershed, acting to protect the natural character and environmental health of the valley from the Berkshires to Long Island Sound for this and future generations.