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CulvertBECKET – The Baker‐Polito Administration today announced $806,880 in grants to support culvert replacement projects that improve municipal roads and river health in communities across the Commonwealth. Provided by the Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Ecological Restoration (DER), the grants support projects that strengthen community preparedness for large storms, protect fisheries, wildlife, and river habitats, and promote smart investments in climate-ready infrastructure.

The Administration also announced the release of a report titled, “Recommendations for Improving the Efficiency of Culvert and Small Bridge Replacement Projects,” prepared by the Massachusetts Culverts and Small Bridges Working Group. This report highlights the safety and environmental challenges presented by over 25,000 road stream crossings across the state and the need for funding and technical assistance for municipalities and partners to address these issues. It also provides recommendations to address the barriers faced by municipalities to implementing this work. The grants and report were announced as part of the Baker-Polito Administration’s celebration of Climate Week in the Commonwealth.

“As climate change brings fiercer storms and increased rainfall to the Commonwealth, the safety issues surrounding undersized culverts become more urgent and apparent,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Replacing this aging infrastructure is critical to ensure the resilience of our communities and natural resources, and the availability of resources like this report and these grant awards is vital for driving this important work forward.”

“These grant awards help support Commonwealth communities that are impacted by undersized or failing culverts but lack the technical knowledge and resources to tackle such a costly project,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “Building on that support, the Culvert and Small Bridges Working Group’s report provides important recommendations to ensure aging infrastructure can be more easily and cost-effectively replaced with climate resilient structures.”

DER’s Culvert Replacement Municipal Assistance Grant Program helps municipalities replace undersized and deteriorating culverts with crossings that meet improved design standards for fish and wildlife passage, river health, and storm resiliency. The grants also help municipalities deal with the ever-pressing cost of aging road infrastructure.

“Failing and undersized culverts can negatively impact communities in many ways, from causing flooding or road failures during storms, to preventing wildlife from accessing necessary habitat,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “This culvert replacement report and these newly-funded projects address these issues, allowing waterways to return to a more natural state and increasing resilience to climate change.”

“Culverts play a vital role in protecting roadways, safeguarding wildlife and river habitats and redirecting waterways that could impact homes and businesses,”  said Transportation Secretary and CEO Secretary Stephanie Pollack. “The report’s recommendations will serve as a valuable path forward for local and state planners and the grant money gives cities and towns the ability to undertake field data collection, design and engineering work, and other steps in an effort to strengthen municipal preparedness.”

Nearly half of Massachusetts’ estimated 25,000 small bridges and culverts act as barriers to fish and wildlife because they are undersized or poorly positioned. Undersized culverts can also present a serious risk to public safety. As high intensity rainfall becomes more frequent and severe due to climate change, culvert bottlenecks can cause flood waters to overtop roads, resulting in washouts and road closures. Installing culverts that meet the Massachusetts Stream Crossing Standards allows rivers to flow unrestricted and with lower risk of flood damage. Recent studies have found that culverts designed to meet these Standards are often less expensive than in‐kind culvert replacements over the lifespan of the structure.

“These culvert replacement projects serve a vital role in restoring Massachusetts waterways. Upgraded culverts can improve fish passage and water quality, restore balance to ecosystems, and provide increased recreational opportunities such as improved fisheries,” said Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Ron Amidon, who served as co-chair of the Massachusetts Culverts and Small Bridges Working Group. “The release of the Culvert and Small Bridges Working Group’s report will help to guide these types of projects in the future, ensuring that this important work continues.”

The Massachusetts Culverts and Small Bridges Working Group’s report can be found here. The Massachusetts Culverts and Small Bridges Working Group was charged with providing a report to the Massachusetts Legislature with recommendations to replace culverts and small bridges more quickly and cost efficiently with climate resilient structures that withstand storms, improve public safety, and protect and restore natural resources. The bipartisan legislation authorizing the report was authored by Senator Adam Hinds and co-sponsored by Senators Anne Gobi, Jamie Eldridge, Jim Welch, and former Senator Don Humason.

Key recommendations of the report include expanding and improving existing state technical assistance and training programs, developing an interagency program to help municipalities navigate the process of culvert and bridge replacement, and providing additional grant funds to municipalities for culvert and bridge replacement projects. The report also recommends revisions to engineering standards, including helpful resources such as standard culvert and small bridge design templates to reduce design and construction costs and streamline permitting and structural review.

The following 12 projects were awarded grants through the Fiscal Year 2021 Culvert Replacement Municipal Assistance Grant Program:

Agawam, $50,000 – The Town of Agawam will conduct field data collection for a culvert replacement on White Brook. Upgrading the culvert will improve public safety by reducing the risk of failure in storm events and improve passage for the migration of fish and wildlife.

Becket, $65,000 – The Town of Becket will conduct field data collection as well as engineering and design work for a culvert replacement located on Center Pond Brook. Upgrading the culvert will restore wildlife connectivity in this area and enhance public safety and resiliency.

Dighton, $150,000 – The Town of Dighton will implement construction work to replace an undersized and deteriorated culvert on Sunken Brook. Upgrading this culvert will reduce flood risk, improve public safety, and restore access for fish and wildlife.

Dunstable, $41,800 – The Town of Dunstable will conduct field data collection, design and engineering, and permitting for a culvert replacement. Upgrading this culvert will reduce ongoing maintenance burdens and road closures, while also improving passage for fish and wildlife, including protected turtle species.

East Bridgewater, $63,950 – The Town of East Bridgewater will conduct field data collection and preliminary engineering for the replacement of a culvert on the Satucket River. Upgrading the culvert will provide increased resilience for the community, safe crossing, and maintain essential public utilities.

Hawley, $40,000 – The Town of Hawley will conduct field data collection and analysis for the replacement of a culvert on King Brook. Upgrading the culvert will improve infrastructure resilience to better withstand future severe weather events and provide for aquatic and terrestrial wildlife access.  

Ipswich, $48,500 – The Town of Ipswich will conduct final design and engineering as well as permitting for a culvert replacement. Upgrading the culvert will improve the reliability of the road, which serves as an emergency access to Route 1, western sections of the town, and nearby hospitals. The upgrade will also allow brook trout access to coldwater streams, which is particularly important as the climate warms and stream temperature increases.

Leyden, $84,000 – The Town of Leyden will conduct field data collection and analysis, as well as design and engineering for the replacement of a culvert on Glenn Brook. Upgrading the culvert will enhance the health of the ecosystem, resiliency, and public safety, as the road under which the culvert lies is the only access route for residential dwellings in the area.  

Merrimac, $85,000 – The Town of Merrimac will conduct field data collection as well as design and engineering for the replacement of a culvert on Cobbler Brook, which is identified as a coldwater fishery and recognized as an important wildlife corridor in the Merrimac Open Space Plan. Replacement of this culvert will improve public safety by providing a more resilient structure.

Templeton, $25,000 – The Town of Templeton will conduct design and engineering work as well as permitting for a culvert removal on the Burnshirt River. Removal of this compromised structure will lead to less road repairs and erosion issues, while providing recreational benefits to the public.

Tyngsborough, $55,000 – The Town of Tyngsborough will complete final design and engineering tasks for a culvert replacement on Bridge Meadow Brook. Upgrading this culvert will maintain economic connectivity and enhance public safety, resiliency, and ecological conditions.

Westborough, $41,750 – The Town of Westborough will conduct field data collection and analysis for the replacement of a culvert on Jackstraw Brook, which is one of the major streams that drains to the Cedar Swamp Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). Upgrading this culvert will benefit the community by reducing flood risk, improving climate resilience, and reconnecting fish and wildlife passage in a coldwater fishery.

DER also awarded grants to two towns to support Culvert Replacement Training Sites. DER provides direct technical assistance and funding to municipalities through the Culvert Replacement Training Initiative to advance the replacement of select municipally owned culverts at strategic locations throughout Massachusetts to provide convenient, centralized learning locations for local road managers. The following two projects were selected for this year’s award:

Alford, $15,000 – The Town of Alford will complete planning and data collection work to replace a culvert on a tributary to Green River. This work will support the design of a replacement structure that reduces maintenance costs, increases flood resilience, and restores passage for fish and wildlife. This project will serve aa culvert replacement training site for municipal staff and officials.

Ashburnham, $41,880 – The Town of Ashburnham will complete field data collection and preliminary design for a culvert replacement on Bluefield Brook. Upgrading this culvert, which has been identified as being among the top 5% of culverts that are high priority for replacement by the Massachusetts Wildlife Climate Action Tool, will mitigate flooding, increase community resilience, and improve aquatic connectivity. This project will provide training opportunities to the region.

The statewide Culvert Replacement Municipal Assistance Grant Program and Culvert Replacement Training Site Grants are supported by DER’s Capital Budget.

“Culverts are a significant part of our infrastructure that go unnoticed until they fail. Right now we have tens of thousands in need of assistance in Massachusetts. Our small towns are often stuck with large unexpected bills,” said State Senator Adam Hinds (D-Pittsfield). “It’s time for a new plan for how the state can play a bigger role. This report is the result of significant work and lays the groundwork for moving a program forward.”

“These granted projects represent the culmination of hard and thoughtful work and collaboration between local and state officials to transform ecologically vulnerable spaces into well-engineered infrastructure that supports people and the environment,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester).  “Through a culvert replacement, Ipswich will maintain a critical roadway for public safety and emergency access and safe passage for important species of wildlife.”

“Today’s infrastructure grant announcement makes it clear that Commonwealth of Massachusetts is taking the necessary steps to replace its aging infrastructure, and in doing so, is working to ensure the safety of our residents across our commonwealth,” said State Representative Smitty Pignatelli (D-Lenox), House Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture. “In the 4th Berkshire District alone, the town of Becket will be receiving $65,000 for field data collection and culvert replacement located on Center Pond Brook. In small towns like the ones in the 4th Berkshire District, enhancing our infrastructure, such as replacing culverts, is critical to the safety of our residents. I want to thank the Baker-Polito Administration for recognizing the serious impact that these state grants have on small communities across the Commonwealth.”

This year’s Climate Week marks four years since Governor Baker signed Executive Order 569 which lays out a comprehensive approach to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions, safeguard residents, municipalities and businesses from the impacts of climate change, and build a more resilient Commonwealth. More recently, the Administration has committed to investing $1 billion in climate resiliency by 2022 and achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.The Commonwealth is working to determine how best to achieve this emissions limit through its 2050 Roadmap, a nation-leading quantitative and qualitative planning effort that will chart multiple technical and policy pathways by which the Commonwealth can equitably and cost-effectively achieve net zero emissions by 2050, and will conclude with the publication of a long-range 2050 Roadmap report. Additionally, the Administration is working with municipalities throughout the Commonwealth to prepare for the impacts of climate change through the nation-leading Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Program, which has now enrolled 89 percent of cities and towns.

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