SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – There is no doubt that our changing climate is affecting the weather here in the Pioneer Valley. That’s why our cities and towns are investing now to be ready for the climate of the future.
This dam between two mill buildings on Watershops Pond looks doesn’t look like much, but it is an important flood control device for the city of Springfield.
“This dam protects an awful lot of the south end and surrounding neighborhood” (2:00) ‘it was in disrepair and it needed serious upgrades to bring it up to modern time and infrastructure standards,” said Tina Quagliato Sullivan, Director of Disaster Recovery for the City of Springfield.
In fact, the dam construction dates back to 1794. Springfield prepared for, applied for and received a climate resiliency grant from the federal government to make the improvements to the dam. An increase in heavy rain storms is going to be a big factor in the climate of our future here in the Pioneer Valley. All that water will have significant impact on our infrastructure.
“We’re all preparing at the city for the understanding that we are going to be experiencing more severe and frequent weather disasters and impacts. This is part of preparing for that, insuring that our infrastructure is where it needs to be, to withstand those impacts,” said Quagliato Sullivan.
Watershops Pond is one of those places where in a heavy rain storm, the water level can rise very quickly. So the new infrastructure will give the city more flexibility in controlling the level of the water in the pond and in the stream, down stream.
“This water goes all the way to Hampden, Wilbraham. So it affects a lot of people down river. So us being able to control that water gives us more control over what’s happening down river,” said Peter Garvey, Director of Capital Asset Construction.
Through the same federal climate resiliency grant, Springfield received funding to equip the Brookings School with solar power. When the power goes out in a storm, the school can stay powered up as a storm shelter.
Springfield is not the only city working on climate resiliency. Towns up and down the valley are taking advantage of a Massachusetts state initiative called the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program.
“Once you go through this community resilience building process, you can apply for action grants up to $2-3 million. And that has been extremely effective in the last five years to help communities become more resilient,” said Catherina Ratte of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission. “We’re very proud of the fact that 93% of our 43 cities and towns are certified MVP communities.”
There is a recurring theme among the MVP projects in the Pioneer Valley. Ratte told 22News, “The theme is green infrastructure, which again is compared to gray infrastructure. Green infrastructure is nature based solutions. The impact that we are experiencing here relates to flooding, relates to increased severity of intense weather. It’s all about managing water, managing storm water.”