Ashfield dam, Glacial Pothole money in Senate bill
If the state enacts the environmental bond bill unanimously approved this week in the Senate, there will be state money to help pay for repairs and reconstruction of the Ashfield Lake Dam, along with money to improve the observation area in front of the Glacial Potholes in Shelburne Falls.
In the $2 billion environmental bond bill, Sen. Adam G. Hinds, D-Pittsfield, secured almost $29 million worth of capital spending authorizations for environmental infrastructure, protection and to promote outdoor recreation in western Massachusetts.
The bill, approved 38-0 in the Senate, now goes to a conference committee that will be appointed by the House and Senate. The committee will debate the differences between the House and Senate bills, then develop a final environmental bond bill to go to Gov. Charlie Baker by July 31, when the session ends.
The Senate version allocates $500,000 for repairs and reconstruction of the Ashfield Lake Dam, and $200,000 for improvements to the deck and observation area surrounding the Glacial Potholes in Shelburne Falls.
Also, it includes $10 million for a lakes and ponds grant program, to assist area lake associations with technical assistance, studies and preservation, and for the removal of aquatic invasive plants.
Also, $800,000 would go to identify, develop, map and market western Massachusetts mountain biking trails throughout the four-county area.
According to a 2016 Ashfield Lake Dam inspection report, the dam’s physical condition was rated as “fair,” but the hazard potential, should the earthen dam fail, is “high” — because of the nearby homes, buildings and town center that would be affected.
That report, by Tighe & Bond engineers, estimated recommended improvements would cost about $600,000. Those repairs included repairing the dam embankment and downstream masonry wall, repairing the dike embankment, grouting the spillway and repairing the masonry walls.
In Shelburne, there has been talk for at least a decade about how to make the Glacial Potholes more accessible to the public without the dangers and liability issues for the town when the area was used for swimming. In recent years, the Selectboard has considered creating a lower-level observation area and walkway. The town has applied for MassWorks grants for such a project, but grants haven’t been awarded for this project.
The environmental bond bill also includes provisions to implement climate change adaptation programs and to improve existing climate resilient infrastructure. It is a five-year bond bill with spending authorizations that would expire in 2023.