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Municipal Resources on Marijuana Legalization

The FRCOG recently hosted a workshop with Attorney Joel Bard and State Rep. Steve Kulik on the many changes coming as a result of the legalization of recreational marijuana. We have collected a number of resources for towns and others on our website.   Click here for a collection of useful information on the new law.

Climate Change Survey Open

The FRCOG is in the beginning stages of developing a Climate Change Adaptation Plan for Franklin County and is seeking responses to their Climate Change Adaptation and Resiliency for Franklin County Survey. This survey focuses on Franklin Town towns and how flooding impacts their infrastructure and natural resources.

CLICK HERE to take the survey. And check back for more information on the Climate Change Adaptation Plan, getting underway in 2017!

$155K Grant Awarded for River Corridor Planning

The FRCOG Planning Department received $155,000 from the MassDEP’s 319 Nonpoint Source Pollution Competitive Grant Program, one of only nine awards made for stormwater projects across the state, for a project to improve the resiliency of the Deerfield River Watershed.  FRCOG’s project will look at innovative ways to map and protect river corridors in the Deerfield River Watershed, which experienced major flooding and erosion during Tropical Storm Irene.  Although the Deerfield River and many of its tributaries are healthy in terms of their high water quality, these same rivers are very unstable in their response to intense rain events.  This instability results in erosion and flooding, which threatens infrastructure, homes, businesses and agricultural lands.  The rivers are highly reactive to intense rain events for a number of reasons, one of which is the disconnection of the rivers from their floodplains, which provide a “safety valve” during flood events.  FRCOG’s project will develop cost-effective river corridor mapping protocols, work with several towns to adapt a model River Corridor Protection Overlay District developed by FRCOG under a FEMA-funded project for the South River Watershed, and develop a model River Corridor Conservation Restriction.  For more information, contact Kimberly Noake MacPhee, P.G., Land Use & Natural Resources Program Manager at 413-774-3167 x130 or kmacphee@frcog.org.

 

Greenscape Challenge Aims to Improve Water Quality

Act for cleaner rivers logo finalFall is a great time to get outside and spend time in your yard and gardens. The Greenscape Challenge can help you to decide what projects to focus on which can improve your yard and gardens and help protect water quality at the same time! The Greenscape Challenge, part of a collaborative project between the Town of Greenfield, the FRCOG and Greening Greenfield, is aimed at teaching you about various projects and techniques you can use in your yard and gardens to help reduce stormwater runoff from your property. Stormwater runoff can often carry with it lawn chemicals, motor oil, dog poop, grass clipping and much more, which in turn wash into storm drains and on into our streams and rivers. Take the Greenscape Challenge and join the growing numbers of people working to protect water quality in Greenfield and beyond. Learn more.

Food Access & Public Health Infographics Released

New infographics illustrate the links between income, food access, diet, activity and health and focus primarily on Franklin County data. Funding for the development of these infographics was made available by Mass in Motion. The complete set of infographics is available here.

This infographic highlights the link between lack of good access to food and public health.

This infographic highlights the link between lack of good access to food and public health.

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Kinder Morgan-TGP NED Gas Pipeline Project

Kinder Morgan-TGP NED Gas Pipeline Project Overview: The proposed Kinder Morgan Tennessee/ Gas Company pipeline would have been a new natural gas pipeline that would have directly impacted eight communities in Franklin County. It was proposed to be generally co-located along high voltage electric transmission lines and was approximately 34 miles in length. A large-scale compressor station associated with the pipeline was proposed to be located in Northfield. If it had been approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), it would have been the largest infrastructure project since the construction of Interstate 91 in Franklin County. On April 22, 2016 Tennessee Gas Pipeline (TGP) Company suspended further work on the NED pipeline and requested that FERC take no further action. On May 11, 2016 the FRCOG submitted a letter to FERC requesting that FERC deny or dismiss with prejudice the Application for the KM-TGP NED Pipeline.  On May 23, 2016, KM-TGP formally withdrew its Application to FERC.  The FRCOG plans to send a follow-up letter to our Federal Legislators with recommendations to improve the FERC process.  For more information contact Linda Dunlavy at lindad@frcog.org or Peggy Sloan at psloan@frcog.org.

Redefining Our River Corridors

History tells the story of prosperous Franklin County towns settled along rivers. Residents used the rivers as a source of food, water, transportation and power. The benefits of the rivers far exceeded the risk of damage to homes and businesses from floods. People erected dams to power mills, and straightened and channelized rivers to accommodate homes, agriculture and businesses.  Fast forward to the present time and flood damages are the legacy of historic manipulations of the river and current efforts to repair flood damage.

A failed retaining wall along the South River in Conway demonstrates the sometimes destructive power of a river.

Flooding is the most common natural hazard in Massachusetts. Flood damages occur due to rising rivers that cover land with water and fluvial (river-related) erosion. The common response to flood damage has been to try and manage the river by dredging, armoring the banks with riprap, constructing berms, and straightening the river channel.  This approach, while well intentioned, is not sustainable and has led instead to an escalating cycle of increasing flood damages and costly repairs.  Each of our towns can easily point to numerous roads, culverts, bridges and/or retaining walls along a river that have failed numerous times.

Floods are inevitable so what is a sustainable, cost-effective river management option to reduce flood losses for our towns? Avoidance:  limiting new development in the river corridor.  This approach allows room for the river to change its flow, width and depth over time, which reduces flood damages to structures, fluvial erosion losses and habitat degradation.  Strategies for protecting existing homes, roads and other infrastructure will continue to include bank armoring and river restoration projects.  Preserving the river’s floodplain functions and limiting new development in the river corridor will help to protect existing at risk structures, too.

What does the river corridor look like?

A river corridor is more than a fixed setback from the river, like the 200 foot setback regulated under the Rivers Protection Act. A river corridor can be wider or narrower than the 100-year floodplain boundary.  A river corridor includes the river, its banks and the land close to the river that carries flood waters and accommodates the meander pattern or movement of the river.

Why Protect River Corridors

Image adapted from the Vermont River Corridor Protection 101 Fact Sheet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
With grant funding from FEMA/MEMA, FRCOG hired Field Geology Services to apply the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources’ Fluvial Erosion Hazard (FEH) risk assessment and mapping methodology to delineate a river corridor for the South River, which flows through Ashfield and Conway. The advantages of the FEH methodology versus a traditional fixed setback are that this approach is:

  • Science-based; considers the entire watershed and river processes, including fluvial erosion.
  • Focuses on sensitive areas – those that are most vulnerable to human and natural stressors.
  • Encourages identification of future problem areas.
  • Enables protection of infrastructure and habitat.

Now that the river corridor is mapped, what are some tools towns can use to implement an Avoidance Strategy?

One tool developed by FRCOG is a draft model River Corridor Protection Overlay District Zoning Bylaw. The degree of protection provided by a River Corridor Protection Overlay District depends upon the needs of the individual town, but could include limits on new structures, prohibition of certain land use activities, or limits on the amount of vegetation that can be removed for new development or limits on the amount of new impervious surfaces (think asphalt). Over time, this option will do the best job of minimizing human/river conflicts.River Corridor Area for a Portion of the South River in Conway

This project for the South River Watershed was the first application of the VT ANR river corridor mapping protocols in Massachusetts. With future funding, FRCOG hopes to map more river corridors in Franklin County and develop other innovative tools for protecting these important resource areas and adjacent infrastructure. For further information about the project, please contact: Kimberly Noake MacPhee, P.G., Land Use & Natural Resources Program Manager at kmacphee@frcog.org or 413.774.3167 x130.

FRCOG Program Updates

Interested in learning a bit more about what has been happening here at the FRCOG in the last three months? Check out the updates presented to our Council members on July 21:

Click here for July 2016 Updates

Rural Policy Advisory Commission kicks off in Greenfield

Massachusetts’ new Rural Policy Commission held its first meeting at the Olver Transit Center recently.  Franklin County representatives on the Commission include our own Linda Dunlavy (who was elected Treasurer) and local realtor Corinne Fitzgerald.

The Commission will serve as a research body for issues critical to the welfare and vitality of rural communities and, according to its creating legislation, shall: study, review and report on the status of rural communities and residents in the commonwealth; advise the general court and the executive branch of the impact of existing and proposed state laws, policies and regulations on rural communities; advance legislative and policy solutions that address rural needs; advocate to ensure that rural communities receive a fair share of state investment; promote collaboration among rural communities to improve efficiency in delivery of services; and develop and support new leadership in rural communities.

The Commissioners decided to organize into four subcommittees and to meet again in September. Interested in learning more about what the Commission will do? Check out the webpage here.

Presentation on Rural MA June 10 2016

Recorder article about the event

Commission Members are sworn in.

Commission Members are sworn in.

Presentation on the demographics of rural Massachusetts

Presentation on the demographics of rural Massachusetts

Senator Rosenberg and DHCD Undersecretary Kornegay kick off the day.

Senator Rosenberg and DHCD Undersecretary Kornegay kick off the day.