PITTSFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The city of Pittsfield, in conjunction with municipal and
community partners in the Berkshires, delivered an update on year 2 of the regional work of the
Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Grant Program.

In partnership with municipal and community partners in the Berkshires, along with the city of Pittsfield presented an update on the work of the regional partnership in year two.

It is intended to reduce flood risks throughout the county through the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Grant Program.

Furthermore, another nearby culvert, Churchill Brook culvert, has recently been replaced because it was undersized. Flood mitigation relies heavily on culverts.

Pittsfield is part of the initiative, as are Lenox, New Marlborough, and Stockbridge, which is funded through the MVP Program of the state. There are also other partners, such as Berkshire Regional Planning Commission (BRPC), Greenagers, Housatonic Valley Association (HVA), Mass Audubon, Trout Unlimited, and the Civil Engineering Department with the University of Connecticut.

“The project started with a need to look at undersized bridges and culverts, structures that carry
streams and rivers under the roads we travel every day. But the project quickly saw opportunities to
grow, looking at flood risks more generally, engaging the community, providing job training
opportunities, and educating youth about impacts in the age of climate change,” said Courteny
Morehouse, environmental and energy program senior planner with BRPC, of the project that kicked
off last year.

In order to find overlaps where residents suffer flooding and where a culvert might be a contributing factor, BRPC conducted outreach. Partners are examining the data to determine the priority of culvert replacements as the project has crossed the one-year milestone.

They will be prepared for future implementation funding after the engineering round is finished in 2023. The municipality will also receive a thorough inventory of the culvert’s resiliency. To assist in directing spending, a Road-Stream Crossing Management Plan is to include bridge infrastructure.

“The hope is that this not only addresses climate-related flooding in Lenox, New Marlborough,
Stockbridge, and Pittsfield, but also engages youth in the conversation of preparation as each town
prepares for climate change while serving as a model for climate resilience throughout the region,”
Morehouse said.

Alison Dixon, Berkshire Watershed Manager at HVA, emphasized the importance of this project.

“We are grateful to have this opportunity to work with the municipalities of Lenox, New
Marlborough, Stockbridge, and Pittsfield. This initiative has become even more critical as climate
change is upon us because any undersized culverts are at risk for failure due to increased intensity of
precipitation events. This infrastructure can also be a barrier for fish to migrate upstream to cooler
waters,” Dixon said. “Their ability to migrate has become more critical with increased temperatures
due to climate change. For this reason, HVA is working with municipalities throughout the
Housatonic watershed to help assess their culvert infrastructure and replace culverts that are
identified as a priority for replacement.”

Local youth were hired to collect field data, assessing each road-stream crossing for fish barriers, flood risk, and stream restoration opportunities, in partnership with HVA, Trout Unlimited and Greenagers.

A team from the UConn Civil Engineering program will use the data to simulate the flood risk of each structure under various emission scenarios, and Trout Unlimited will review stream restoration observations to look for possibilities to integrate naturally occurring remedies such as stream buffers and rain gardens.

“Greenagers was thrilled to be a part of the project. Youth developed work skills in line with their
desired career paths and college studies, connections with community partners, and field experience.
It was our first ‘conservation crew’ or ‘culvert crew’ or ‘culvert ops,’ but we hope it’s the first of
many,” said Conservation Director Elia Del Molino.

Mass Audubon created lessons on increased flood risk and planning strategies to manage them for fifth-graders (in conjunction with HVA) and related programs for seventh and eighth-graders, as well as high school students, for the student education component.

“Partnering with HVA, BRPC and the municipalities on this MVP project is a dream come true,
allowing Mass Audubon to deepen our engagement with teachers and students, adding new lessons
and/or field trips for every grade. MVP support allows us to go beyond content learning and engage
fifth-grade students in stewardship activities like willow plantings to stabilize stream banks and
increase shade to keep streams cooler,” said Dale Abrams, regional education manager for Mass
Audubon. “Similarly, middle school students dove into flood risk assessment and planning
simulations aimed at understanding how our communities can prepare for a life in a warmer, wetter
climate.”

Every lesson is grade-appropriate, starting with fifth-graders learning about contaminated storm water runoff and how constructing green infrastructure like rain gardens and riparian buffers may reduce pollution and the amount of water flowing into our rivers.

According to Abrams, eighth-grade students use Mass Mapper GIS tools to map flood risk and carbon sequestration in their communities.

Children have also visited culvert locations that were examined to learn about changes in river flow outside of the classroom.

Greenagers coordinated an intergenerational narrative exchange where middle school students interviewed local seniors about the changes they had seen in their lifetimes.