News Briefs: Lake Mansfield boat ramp construction; Complete Streets funding awards; Mass. Senate passes environmental bond bill

Lake Mansfield boat ramp under construction

Great Barrington — Beginning Tuesday, July 17, contractors for the Massachusetts Office of Fishing and Boating Access will begin reconstruction and improvements to the Lake Mansfield boat launch.

Residents and visitors are advised to use caution in the area while the project is under way. Construction is expected to last two to three weeks on weekdays during business hours. The boat launch should be accessible for weekend use during the construction period, but access cannot be guaranteed.

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Baker-Polito administration announces $6.4 Million in Complete Streets funding awards

Boston — The Baker-Polito administration and the Department of Transportation Friday announced awards totaling approximately $6.4 million to 22 communities through the Complete Streets Funding Program. These awards will be used to fund local, multi-modal infrastructure projects that improve accessibility for bicyclists, pedestrians, public transit users, and people using other forms of transportation.

A “Complete Street” is one that provides safe and accessible options for all travel modes and for all people, taking into account the ages and abilities of individuals. The Baker-Polito administration has now awarded approximately $30 million in construction funding since creating a funding program for Complete Streets in February 2016.

The Complete Streets program will provide funding to the following Berkshire communities:

Adams will receive $290,281 for improvements including new sidewalks and ADA-compliant wheelchair ramps on Crotteau Street and a portion of Murray Street, which will increase pedestrian connectivity between several key points within the town and the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail, and improve pavement and drainage conditions along Crotteau Street.

Williamstown will receive $167,847 for the installation of solar-powered pedestrian signals at six locations along Main Street. The award will also enable the installation of 500 feet of new ADA-accessible sidewalk and curb ramps along South Street, which will connect the Buxton School to the Clark Art Institute and the rest of downtown.

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Image courtesy Office of Sen. Adam Hinds

Mass. Senate passes environmental bond bill

Boston — Sen. Adam G. Hinds, D-Pittsfield, has announced that the Massachusetts Senate Thursday unanimously passed H.4613, “An Act promoting climate change adaptation, environmental and natural resource protection and investment in recreational assets and opportunity,” by a vote of 38–0. The legislation authorizes the issuance of more than $2 billion in bonds to implement climate change adaptation programs and to improve existing climate-resilient infrastructure. It is a five-year bond bill; the spending authorizations will expire June 30, 2023.

During debate, Hinds secured almost $30 million in new capital spending authorizations and reauthorizations of existing spending authorizations from the 2014 environmental bond bill to maintain key environmental infrastructure, protect natural resources and promote outdoor recreation in the Berkshires and western Massachusetts, including:

  • $10 million for a lakes and ponds grant program to help lake associations statewide with technical assistance, studies, preservation and environmental improvements, including the removal of aquatic invasive plants;
  • $8.775 million reauthorization for the Hoosic River Revival project in North Adams;
  • $6.55 million in new and reauthorized capital funds to support the construction of the outdoor center, campgrounds and trail system at the Greylock Glen in Adams;
  • $800,000 to identify, map, market, develop and construct western Massachusetts mountain biking trails in Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden counties;
  • $800,000 for repairs to the Dan Casey Memorial Drive culverts over Onota Lake in Pittsfield;
  • $500,000 for the design and construction of infrastructure to link existing sections of the Highlands Footpath route from Lee to Goshen;
  • $500,000 for the engineering and design of the proposed Adventure Trail from North Adams to Williamstown;
  • $120,000 for repairs to the East Street/West Street culvert in Mount Washington;
  • $100,000 for repairs to the Wild Acres Dam in Pittsfield; and
  • $30,000 for a feasibility study on the eradication of zebra mussels from Laurel Lake in Lee and Lenox.

Hinds co-sponsored a number of policy amendments that were adopted by the Senate during debate to protect Article 97 land, promote agriculture and reduce pollution, including:

  • Public Lands Preservation Act, which clarifies and standardizes the process by which state and local governments can remove the protected status of public lands in order for them to be used for other purposes;
  • Farming and Fishing Innovation Funds, which creates the Agricultural Innovation Fund with a purpose of awarding grants to agricultural and cranberry producers as well as the design, construction and modification of commercial fishing vessels;
  • Raw Milk Delivery, which directs the state departments of Agricultural Resources and Public Health to adopt regulations regarding the delivery of raw milk and authorizes licensed raw milk farmers to deliver raw milk directly to the consumer with a direct contractual relationship or through a community supported agriculture delivery system; and
  • Plastic Bag Reduction, which creates a uniform standard for single-use bags by banning plastic bags across the state, and represents a compromise from years of work and negotiations with stakeholders in the public and private sectors.

The Senate environmental bond also ensures that climate change prevention programs are sufficiently funded and authorizes capitalization of the Global Warming Solutions Trust Fund, which is to be used to fund costs associated with implementation of the Global Warming Solutions Act, the Commonwealth’s Clean Energy and Climate Plan, and state and local strategies for climate change adaptation.

Additionally, the bill requires the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security to coordinate to strengthen resilience and prepare for the impacts of climate change; publish, every five years, an integrated state climate adaptation and hazard mitigation plan; establish frameworks for state agency and municipal vulnerability assessments that will be incorporated into the state plan; and implement the state plan and incorporate information learned from implementing the state plan in plan updates.

The House of Representatives passed an environmental bond bill June 13 under the leadership of Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli, D-Lenox, who serves as the House chairman of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. It is expected that a conference committee will be appointed by House and Senate leadership to negotiate differences between the two bills and develop a final environmental bond to be forwarded to Gov. Charlie Baker.