Northfield, Warwick hazard mitigation comment period closes June 11

Staff Writer
Published: 6/6/2021 4:48:13 PM

Residents of Northfield and Warwick have until June 11 to provide comments on the draft Community Resilience Building and Hazard Mitigation Regional Plan being developed with the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG).

During a virtual public information session, FRCOG Senior Land Use and Natural Resources Planner Alyssa Larose and fellow Land Use and Natural Resources Planner Helena Farrell shared key findings and priority actions that have come from more than a year of stakeholder outreach workshops. Both towns are seeking to become designated as Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) communities through the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Four workshops were held virtually in February and March to discuss impacts of climate change, identify the towns’ top hazards of concern, review strengths and vulnerabilities, and brainstorm actions to increase resiliency in three categories: infrastructure, society and environment.

“Some of the climate change variables that we have been talking about throughout this process include increased precipitation, especially heavy precipitation events in our region,” Larose said.

According to Larose and Farrell, Warwick found one of its greatest vulnerabilities is frequent and stronger storms that take down trees, knock out power, block roads and damage communication infrastructure. Northfield found it is vulnerable to heavier precipitation events, including flooding and erosion along steep roads, inflow and infiltration into the sewer system, and impacts to public and private drinking water.

Recommendations for Warwick resiliency projects include conducting proactive tree maintenance; working with National Grid to improve restoration of power and safe road clean-up after storms; and assessing upstream areas for conservation and management strategies to slow floodwater. Other recommendations range from plans to combat food insecurity with organizations like the Greater Quabbin Food Alliance, to forest fire preparedness and open space protection.

One of the biggest differentiating points between the two towns is Northfield’s location along the Connecticut River, which actually divides the town. Recommendations for Northfield resiliency projects include continued advocacy for stewardship through the Connecticut River Streambank Erosion Committee.

Other Northfield recommendations include establishing backup power for Town Hall and backup communication options for residents and town departments; and maintaining town infrastructure including roads, culverts and bridges. Residents also noted the need for wastewater infrastructure improvements.

“Aging sewage pipes is a common problem for historic communities and something that just needs to happen,” Farrell said. “It’s a good thing to have as a top priority.”

Both Northfield and Warwick residents said town strengths include food security programs, abundant farmland and landowners who are engaged in land stewardship. One of Warwick’s greatest strengths is its vast amounts of undeveloped forests and wetlands that serve to slow, infiltrate and store precipitation, mitigate extreme heat, sequester and store carbon, and support biodiversity. Northfield’s strengths include strong community partnerships and organizations, such as the Senior Center, The Moody Center, local businesses and regional EMS, which have been critical in meeting the needs of residents during emergencies.

By becoming a designated MVP community, both towns will be eligible to apply for MVP Action Grants to pursue identified action items. The process will also result in an updated Hazard Mitigation Plan for each town. Once the plan is approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), both towns will be able to apply for hazard mitigation funding from those agencies.

The draft Northfield and Warwick Community Resilience Building and Hazard Mitigation Regional Plan can be viewed at bit.ly/34A7PUO.

Public comments are due by Friday, June 11. Comments may be submitted to Larose at alarose@frcog.org or 413-774-3167, ext. 127, or Farrell at hfarrell@frcog.org or 413-774-3167, ext 134.

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




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