Info session to focus on South River Watershed management options

  • The South River as it flows through the center of Conway shows signs of erosion in this photo taken as part of the Franklin Regional Council of Governments’ South River mapping project in 2016. File Photo

Staff Writer
Published: 6/20/2021 6:00:18 PM

A virtual public information meeting on Wednesday will continue discussion on Ashfield and Conway’s river corridor planning and resiliency management for the South River Watershed.

Registration for the Zoom meeting, set to start at 7 p.m., can be accessed at bit.ly/SouthRiverCorridorPlanning. Staff from the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG), GZA GeoEnvironmental Inc., Field Geology Services and the Franklin Land Trust will participate.

“The focus of Wednesday will be to talk about the options for managing and protecting river corridors,” FRCOG Land Use and Natural Resources Planning Program Manager Kimberly Noake MacPhee said.

This session follows a June 2 meeting, which shared information on river corridor climate resiliency work completed with the current Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Action Grant, the next phase of work, and why climate-resilient rivers and watersheds are important.

Noake MacPhee said Wednesday’s meeting will see discussion on the river corridor and how it is different from the 100-year floodplain, and how management practices of the river corridor can reduce flooding and increase climate resiliency. Several options for managing the river corridor, including easement restrictions and zoning options, will be discussed.

Towns in Massachusetts, which is a home rule state, have the local power and authority to manage the way land is used. Noake MacPhee said these info sessions will help develop a “tool kit” for towns, with options available to improve climate resiliency and combat flood and erosion hazards. This could include updating zoning and subdivision regulations.

“It’s forward-looking in that we want to be thinking about how new development happens in communities, and how to direct that to areas outside the river corridor so structures are less vulnerable to flooding and erosion hazards,” Noake MacPhee said.

The South River work will increase resiliency to more frequent and intense storms expected with future climate change; reduce flooding and erosion damage; and restore wildlife habitat degraded by past river alterations.

According to FRCOG, Ashfield and Conway have worked together since 2011 to address several issues facing the watershed. The towns have conducted assessments on all bridges, culverts and drainage to prioritize them for repair and replacement.

Additionally, the local Trout Unlimited chapter worked with a landowner to plant a riparian buffer and fence cattle out of the stream, reducing sediment and nutrient load to the South River. The South River Meadow Restoration project, which was completed several years ago, reconnected the river to its floodplain to reduce flooding and stabilize eroding banks by trapping sediment.

Noake MacPhee said the information sessions are intended “not only to provide info, but to provide people with an opportunity to have their questions answered.” Those with questions may submit them to Noake MacPhee ahead of time at kmacphee@frcog.org, or by calling 413-774-3167, ext. 130.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.


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