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News Briefs: Senate restores funding for arts, education, services; Complete Streets funding award for North Adams; study finds invasive species crossing oceans

The Massachusetts Senate voted unanimously to restore nearly $2 million in funding for the arts, humanities, and sciences through the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Senate restores FY18 funding for arts, education, public health, other statewide services

Boston — Sen. Adam G. Hinds, D-Pittsfield, has announced that the Massachusetts Senate restored $24.9 million to the fiscal year 2018 state budget, overriding 26 of Gov. Charlie Baker’s line item vetoes, which totaled $320.6 million.

The Senate voted unanimously to restore nearly $2 million in funding for the arts, humanities, and sciences through the Massachusetts Cultural Council. As Senate chairman of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development, Hinds led the call for that action in the Senate. Hinds and his committee co-chair, Rep. Cory Atkins, D-Concord, circulated letters to their House and Senate colleagues urging them to prioritize MCC funding in their budget veto override decisions. The Senate also restored funding for several programs that focus on education for everyone, including $200,000 for the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative and $850,000 for adult basic education.

The Senate reaffirmed its commitment to combating the opioid epidemic and advancing public health across the state, restoring $1.3 million for early childhood mental health clinicians, $5 million for MassHealth Senior Care and $800,000 to eliminate the waiting list for pediatric palliative care. In recognition of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, the Senate restored $200,000 for Samaritans Inc. suicide prevention, intervention, education and outreach services. Other override actions include $675,000 for Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Services and $250,000 to expand the Housing Court to serve all residents across the state

The Senate will reconvene in formal session on Wednesday, Oct. 4; additional veto overrides may be considered.

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North Adams receives Complete Streets funding award

Chelmsford — Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s acting highway administrator Jonathan Gulliver, members of the Legislature and local officials have announced the third round of awards through the Complete Streets Funding Program. A ceremony was held Friday at the Chelmsford Town Hall to formally award a total of $7.8 million to 22 communities.

A Complete Street provides safe and accessible options for all travel modes and all people. The Baker-Polito administration has awarded approximately $17.7 million since creating a funding program for Complete Streets in February 2016. In September 2016, the administration announced $4.4 million in the first round of awards, and then $5.5 million in the second round in January 2017. The third round of projects will create nine miles of new or reconstructed sidewalk, as well as seven miles of new bicycle and multimodal paths, and 174 new or improved crosswalks. Thirty-eight intersections will be improved with new safety infrastructure, and there will traffic calming measures installed at 15 different locations throughout the Commonwealth.

North Adams will receive $400,000 to increase safety for pedestrians and bicyclists by replacing existing sidewalks and installing new bicycle lanes from the North Adams and Clarksburg border south to the intersection with Union Street, (Route 2). After these upgrades, the Route 8 corridor of Clarksburg and the northern section of North Adams will be linked to the vast sidewalk network of the North Adams’ city center and business corridors, complementing the current citywide effort to install Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant ramps.

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‘Science’ study finds invasive species crossing oceans on marine debris

James T. Carlton. Photo courtesy Williams College

Williamstown — A new study, led by Williams College professor emeritus James T. Carlton and appearing in the Sept. 29 issue of Science, documents for the first time that plastic marine debris may be significantly increasing the transport of non-native species across the world’s oceans. In “Tsunami-Driven rafting: Transoceanic species dispersal and implications for marine biogeography,” Carlton and his colleagues demonstrate that, since 2012, nearly 300 species of marine life have landed alive on the coasts of North America and the Hawaiian islands after rafting across the Pacific Ocean on debris swept out to sea by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami of March 2011.

Because the organisms traveled on primarily non-biodegradable objects such as fiberglass vessels and plastic buoys, they survived far longer than marine scientists predicted. Coastal species were believed to be unable to live for more than two years on the open ocean; however, the Japanese species were still arriving on American shores in 2017, six years after the tsunami.

More than 10 million tons of plastic waste from nearly 200 countries enters the ocean every year. The paper’s authors argue that vastly expanded coastal urbanization has increased the amount of such plastic available to be washed into the sea. Hurricanes and typhoons then sweep the debris into the oceans, as happened when hurricanes struck the Caribbean and Florida Keys in fall 2017. Riding on that waste, a new wave of potential ecological invaders is pushed out to sea, where they often survive for years before landfall.

The expected increase in the size and frequency of extreme weather incidents due to global climate change is likely, the authors argue, to significantly increase the amount of debris in the oceans and, with it, the number of possible ecological invaders. This creates the potential for vast economic costs and environmental impacts.

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