Ashfield culvert replacement to serve as training opportunity for local road managers

  • Replacement of this culvert on Baptist Corner Road in Ashfield has been seized by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. The state’s involvement comes with $50,000 to support design and technical consultation, but funding sources for the construction itself are still being determined. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Ashfield, in consultation with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, intends to replace a culvert on Baptist Corner Road, pictured. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Ashfield, in consultation with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, intends to replace a culvert on Baptist Corner Road, pictured. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 3/23/2021 2:22:04 PM

ASHFIELD — Replacement of a culvert on Baptist Corner Road has been seized by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, who sees it to be representative of common problems with aging infrastructure in Massachusetts, and has turned the replacement into a training opportunity for local road managers.

The state’s involvement comes with $50,000 to support design and technical consultation, which was announced by the Baker-Polito Administration earlier this month as part of a total $285,000 for seven river and wetland restoration projects across Massachusetts. Funding sources for the construction itself are still being determined, according to Ashfield Highway Superintendent Tom Poissant.

Like much infrastructure built in the 1960s and ’70s, this culvert’s design reflects a somewhat limited understanding of river ecology, said Carrie Banks, the stream continuity restoration planner with the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Division of Ecological Restoration.

In those days, Banks said, designers usually thought that culverts simply had to allow water to pass through — there was little thought for fish, or other materials that might be floating in the water.

“We’ve found that a good number of culverts and small bridges on the landscape are barriers to fish and wildlife movement,” Banks said.

Because the problem is so common, the Department of Fish and Wildlife identifies certain culverts as regional training sites. Local road managers are invited to on-site meetings on the design process of the new culvert, which include discussions of the relevant science, Banks said.

“It’s not just about putting a new structure in. It’s also about creating a natural channel through the structure,” Banks said.

In Ashfield’s case, the current culvert uses a 5-foot metal pipe to let water through.

So far there have been three trainings at the site, which were attended by road managers from over a dozen local municipalities, Banks said. They discussed the issues with the current design, and described how a better structure would work.

The design that was settled on is a 17-foot arch with a natural bottom. Compared to the 5-foot pipe, which is now considered to be undersized, the new design will be less disruptive to the natural ecology, Banks explained.

Construction of the new structure is not covered by the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s training program. Poissant said a timetable for construction won’t be clear until a funding source is secured, but he said he hopes to schedule the work by next summer. Banks said the Department of Fish and Wildlife hopes to be able to host a post-construction training session at the site next summer.

Reach Max Marcus at
mmarcus@recorder.com or 413-930-4231.




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