Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership receives $1.5M for climate change projects

  • The Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership has received a grant that will allow Ashfield to make repairs to the Ashfield Lake dam to make it more climate-change resilient. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership has received a grant that will allow Ashfield to make repairs to the Ashfield Lake dam to make it more climate-change resilient. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 2/12/2020 10:05:30 PM

Dam repairs, storm water infrastructure upgrades and culvert repairs are a few of the projects the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership will tackle this year as it works toward addressing the challenges of climate change with an almost $1.5 million grant it received from the state.

The partnership, which consists of 21 towns in Franklin and Northern Berkshire counties and regional nonprofit organizations, like the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership, will also conduct a regional feasibility study that will explore forestry management practices that incorporate carbon sequestration, a natural or artificial process by which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere. It will prioritize infrastructure projects, explore regulatory options for river corridor protection, and design and implement nature-based solutions.

According to Melissa Provencher, environmental and energy program manager for the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, one of the partners, Conway and Ashfield will benefit from the grant in a variety of ways, including technical assistance for work on river corridor protection overlay zoning districts, culvert assessments and designs, repair work to upgrade the Ashfield Lake dam and a new culvert at Baptist Corner Road in Ashfield.

Massachusetts Undersecretary of Climate Change David Ismay said the state is taking an integrated approach to climate change under the direction of Gov. Charlie Baker. He said the annual grant, which aims to make towns and cities across the state more resilient when it comes to climate change, is extremely competitive.

Towns and cities first join the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program and apply for a smaller planning grant, Ismay said. Then, once they have a plan in hand, they can apply for an action grant.

The Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership works to increase natural resource-based economic development, support forest conservation on private land and use of sustainable forestry practices, and improve the fiscal sustainability of towns and cities

Ismay said 82 percent of the towns and cities in the state are members of the program and have either received a planning grant, an action grant or are in the process of applying for the first or second time. If a town doesn’t get one the first time, the state will work with it to refine its application.

“Once a plan is created, towns and cities compete for the money to get the work done,” he said. “For instance, a town might decide to renovate a senior center to make it a cooling center.”

Ismay said the state could easily spend upward of $50 million each year to cover the expense of all of the projects cities and towns would like to complete.

“There’s such a need,” he said. “And, it’s a really smart investment for the state. The governor believes so, and he is committed. We need to plan for the future.”

Ismay said most towns and cities need to do what the state is giving them money to do anyway, so they would have eventually had to find another way to fund their projects.

“We want to shift things to the front end and get these things done before cities and towns have to get them done because something happens,” Ismay explained.

The grants are funded by the state capital budget, he said. The state reviews all applications each year and decides which ones need to be done first. He said the state works with energy and environmental agencies and uses a scoring system to decide.

“This is really a win-win, Ismay said, “and it’s very important to the governor that we focus on environmental justice and low-income communities.”

The program was created in 2017 under the governor’s Executive Order 569, which provides communities with funding and technical support to identify climate hazards, develop strategies to improve resilience and implement priority actions to adapt to climate change. Ismay said $11.6 million was awarded this year to 52 cities, towns and regional partnerships.

“The record participation in the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program underscores the need for forward-looking solutions that build strong, resilient local economies, provide necessary adaptation for vulnerable infrastructure and mitigate the impacts of climate change,” Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides said. “The Baker-Polito Administration is committed to supporting municipalities in getting this work off the ground, and has committed to an ambitious goal to spend a total of $1 billion on climate resiliency by 2022.”

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-0261, ext. 269 or afritz@recorder.com.




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