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Greenagers Youth Crew to Assess County Bridges and Culverts
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
07:15AM / Saturday, December 04, 2021
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Greenagers offers opportunities to youth and young adults to do environmental work. The program is partnering with the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission to assess certain infrastructure areas in four communities.

The survey is part of a larger hazard mitigation program to identify areas for flooding and ecological damage caused by climate change.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Greenagers youth crew will be assessing the bridges and culverts of Pittsfield, Lenox, Stockbridge, and New Marlborough over the next two years. 

The environmentally interested teens will be determining what improvements are needed for the infrastructure to support increased precipitation and flooding, wildlife crossings, and stormwater management.

"I think sort of the biggest thing we want to get out there is that if you see folks assessing these structures or in your neighborhood, then it's a Greenagers crew, that it's youth doing this project in their area," Courteny Morehouse, Berkshire Regional Planning Commission's senior planner for the Environmental & Energy Program said.

"And then if they want to get in touch and learn more about the project, or just get engaged, they can contact me they can, they can go and talk to the youth that are there, mostly just want to get folks knowledgeable about the project that's happening."

At the project's conclusion, the four communities will be given a Road Stream Crossing Management Plan (RSCMP) with an inventory of its road street crossings and culverts that need attention ranked by priority.

It will even go as far as providing preliminary designs for one of the priority culverts and nature-based solutions.

The city and three towns were included in the effort because they all identified culvert and bridge projects as urgent to address climate change impacts.

"Over the course of two years, they're doing all of the culverts and bridges within the towns of Lenox, Stockbridge, New Marlborough as well as Pittsfield, so it's a lot," Morehouse said.

"It's every single bridge and culvert including ones that are located in folks' driveways with permission from the owners, of course."

The regional undertaking is funded through a $295,190 state "Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness" (MVP) Action Grant called the "Housatonic Stream Restoration for Regional Flood Resilience Project."

Other partners include Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, Housatonic Valley Association, Trout Unlimited, Mass Audubon.

Greenagers provides paid employment programs, internships, and apprenticeships to about 300 teens and young adults from about 20 schools so they can engage in meaningful work in environmental conservation, sustainable farming, and natural resource management.

There will be about four youths employed part time for the project who will work in permitting weather.

There are three components to their studies that consider wildlife surrounding the infrastructure and environmental impacts.

The first is a North Atlantic Connectivity Collaborative assessment that essentially determines whether fish can pass underneath.  

The team will also be doing a food risk assessment and a nature-based assessment.

"If a culvert is undersized, what it can do is create a scour pool downstream, and the trout kind of get trapped in that scour pool," Morehouse explained.

"And they can't actually leave and move up and downstream and trout kind of need to move up and downstream in order to spawn and then, find food, etc."

With supporting stormwater management, the project also aims to lessen damage to public infrastructure and therefore, to neighborhoods. This especially applies to areas with vulnerable populations and underserved neighborhoods.

"Emphasis is placed on engaging with environmental justice neighborhoods and climate-vulnerable populations while gathering qualitative data through storytelling and conversation with community elders," according to a BRPC press release on the program.

"Berkshire Regional Planning Commission and municipalities are partnering with local groups and nonprofits to both inform the community about the project and hear from residents what their greatest concerns are when it comes to flooding and current infrastructure."

BRPC has voiced support for State Auditor Suzanne Bump's rural rescue plan that was released in early October.

The study analyzed roadways, culverts, and bridges; municipal buildings; and broadband internet as public infrastructure categories and found they were all under-resourced in Western Mass.

Morehouse said that report came out after the project had been awarded but it is a great bonus that Bump is recognizing the need.

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