Mass. Environmental Trust Grant will fund continuing work on the Southwest Branch of the Housatonic
HVA is thrilled to announce the receipt of a grant totalling $13,529 from the Massachusetts Environmental Trust. The MET Grant is made possible through the sale of the state’s three environmental license plates.
“We’re grateful to the Trust for this significant gift, and of course to all of the individual plateholders who voluntarily contribute their support to protect and preserve the waters and related resources of the Commonwealth,” said HVA Berkshires Director Dennis Regan.
Turning grant funds into cleaner waters
HVA will use the grant to create a community project to restore and protect the Southwest Branch of the Housatonic River in the Berkshires, a headwater tributary which is listed as an Environmental Justice Community by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environment. The Branch is also listed on the Mass. DEP Category 5 303(d) list of impaired waterways for bacteria and sedimentation.
The goal of the project is to get the Southwest Branch delisted from the 303D list, and keep it off by following a DEP & EPA approved Watershed-Based Plan (WBP) template.
Sixteen Years of Science and Education on the Southwest Branch
HVA monitored the water in the SW Branch from 2002 to 2007 and consistently found high e-coli readings. Since then HVA has conducted river education programs to raise awareness and inspire action, including working with riverside landowners to reduce stormwater runoff pollution.
In 2017 a volunteer-powered monitoring program rechecked the river’s health, hoping that changing land use practices along its banks and the removal of a horse pasture would result in lower bacteria levels.
While this 2017 study found some stretches of healthier water, high levels of e-coli remain in some areas. Monitoring and conversations with local landowners suggests where the contamination is coming from. Pinpointing the source will be a first significant step in delisting the Southwest Branch, and beginning its turnaround.