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Conway OKs $100K for South River restoration

CONWAY — Rather than damage homes on Shelburne Falls Road and flood the town center, the South River would pool onto the Rose property in future storms, provided a new project works as designed.

The 167 townspeople who packed into the Conway Grammar School gymnasium at Monday’s special town meeting voted to spend $100,000 of community preservation money for a South River flood mitigation project.

The townspeople also approved a second article to give the Selectboard support on providing $235,000 of trust fund money for improvements to the Conway pool.

The CPA money is required for the town to receive the $212,500 grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection to address flooding and erosion along the South River suffered after Tropical Storm Irene inundated the town center last year. The total project cost is $354,166.

The South River project is the first idea out of the Rose property debate to move forward.

The 11-acre cornfield off Shelburne Falls Road is desired by many town boards, interested in using the barren field for senior housing, a municipal multi-complex or ball fields.

John Field of Field Geology Services in Maine — a company that works to understand how the natural setting and human land use in a watershed determine the shape of a river channel — said the South River project would not prevent any other proposed uses for the Rose property.

The project — developed by Field Geology Services — is designed to lower the floodplain on the Rose property by two feet on 0.8 acres. The floodplain lowering gives flooding water a place to go during major storm events and reduces the risk that the entire Rose property could be engulfed and eroded.

The project focuses on the river downstream of the bridge.

It would place rock weirs and rock deflectors in the river bed to turn rushing water away from the eroding bank toward the center of the channel. This could slow the river’s powerful flow and reduce erosion and sediment buildup detrimental to fish life.

This would also correct river straightening performed in the town’s early industrial history when mills relied on strong water flow for power.

The Community Preservation Committee recommended the project because it meets the criteria of open space restoration, one of the intended uses of the funds.

The CPA fund had an estimated balance of $367,000. After the project’s approval and with next year’s money, it would have a $330,000 balance.

The grant was secured by the efforts of the Franklin Regional Council of Governments and the Friends of the South River, a private organization focusing on the restoration, protection and ecological integrity of the South River.

The state DEP chose to fund the project for it a separate similar reason — to control the sediment buildup in the Connecticut River, some of which is coming from the South River.

It is the first part of a two-part project. The second part would address the area upstream from the bridge, which is located on private land. There are no funding options yet for the second part. Field said his company has not begun the funding process yet.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at:
kmckiernan@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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